Teen accused of arson in family dispute will be tried as a juvenile

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

Updated: July 12, 2011, 7:27 PM

 

A 16-year-old boy accused of setting a fire May 13 that destroyed his family’s Sifton neighborhood house will be tried as a juvenile, a Clark County Superior Court judge has ruled.

Alex Michael Smith was charged with first-degree arson after he allegedly burned down the home in the 8500 block of Northeast 129th Avenue because he was angry at his mother after an argument, court documents show.

Judge James E. Rulli on Monday denied the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office request to try Smith as an adult. The judge said if Smith is convicted, the juvenile system would offer Smith a better chance of rehabilitation.

“If sent to jail, he would just become another number,” the judge stated in court documents. “The juvenile system will better address his needs, whether academic or mental.”

When a 16-year-old or 17-year-old is charged with a Class A felony, state law mandates a hearing to evaluate whether the case should be tried in juvenile court or adult court, said Deputy Prosecutor Jeff McCarty.

Smith allegedly fetched a gas can from his family’s household shed and set the house ablaze around 9 a.m., court records show.

His mother, Patricia Smith, told investigators that she and her son had argued earlier in the morning. She left the home and spoke with her son by phone, when he allegedly told her, “You will be sorry.”

Smith returned to the home, smelled smoke and helped her two other children evacuate. She had to drag Smith out of the house.

Smith has confessed that he set the blaze, according to court records.

Smith’s court-appointed defense attorney, Darcy Scholts, raised concerns that Smith had sustained a head injury before the fire that might have affected his behavior, according to court records.

Scholts indicated in court documents that Patricia Smith had stated that her son had been elbowed in the eye during an athletic match prior to the fire. After the injury, he showed signs of memory loss, nausea, vomiting, headaches, mood swings and other unusual behavior, Scholts did not return a phone call from The Columbian seeking more details on Smith’s medical condition.

The medical issues were raised at Monday’s hearing, but the judge did not consider them in his ruling, McCarty said.

Smith will be arraigned on Friday.