A 9-year-old child accused of causing a mobile home fire that killed three children and two adults in central Illinois has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder, the AP reports. The juvenile also was charged with two counts of arson and one count of aggravated arson, the (Peoria) Journal Star reported. The April 6 fire killed a 1-year-old, two 2-year-olds, a 34-year-old man and a 69-year-old woman at the Timberline Mobile Home Park near the village of Goodfield. Woodford County State’s Attorney Greg Minger would not reveal other details about the suspect, including a possible relationship to the victims. An earlier Journal Star article noted that a 27-year-old woman (granddaughter of the 69-year-old victim, fiancee to the 34-year-old victim, aunt to one of the 2-year-old victims, and mother to the other two child victims) and her 9-year-old son survived the fire.
No child as young as this one has been accused in a mass killing since at least 2006, according to the AP/USATODAY/Northeastern University mass murder database. Minger said he scoured multiple reports on the fire before proceeding with prosecution. Woodford County Coroner Tim Ruestman said the fire was started intentionally. “It was a heavy decision,” Minger said. “It’s a tragedy, but at the end of the day, it’s charging a very young person with one of the most serious crimes we have. But I just think it needs to be done at this point, for finality.” A leading Illinois advocate for children ensnared in the criminal justice system sharply criticized the decision to charge a child that young with murder, noting that 14 is the minimum age of criminal responsibility in many countries. If convicted, the child could be placed on probation for at least five years but not beyond the age of 21, Minger said. Therapy and counseling would be likely.
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