Two 13-year-old boys charged with murder in California library fire

Fire crews from Visalia, Tulare and other agencies remove debris from the Porterville library on Thursday, February 20, 2020. Two firefighters were killed when the building went up in flames on Tuesday.
© Ron Holman

VISALIA, Calif. — Charges have been filed against two 13-year-old boys linked to a California library fire that killed two local firefighters. 

On Friday afternoon, Tulare County prosecutors filed two counts of murder with special circumstances of multiple murders and arson-related charges. 

In California, children under 14 can’t be tried as adults, even if they are charged with serious and violent felonies, such as murder. 

The boys denied the charges and remain in jail. They are expected to return to juvenile court on March 11.   

“By law, no further information can be provided at this time,” stated Stuart Anderson, spokesman for the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office. 

Fire Capt. Raymond Figueroa, 35, died Tuesday night. He started with the department in 2007. Firefighter Patrick Jones, 25, body was found in the rubble Wednesday night, according to officials. He’s been with the department since 2017.

The historic Porterville City Library was destroyed by flames. 

If the suspects were 17, they could be tried as adults, said Police Chief Eric Kroutil during a Thursday press conference.

“They would face a lengthy prison sentence,” he said. “That’s not going to happen in this case.” 

Many have expressed their outrage on social media regarding the state’s criminal justice system.

“They are old enough to know right from wrong, therefore they need to be tried as adults,” Kim Burkart stated in a Facebook post on the Times-Delta page. 

“They MURDERED 2 people. They are old enough to be held accountable and charged as adults. Period,” Rean Henderson Lackey wrote. 

In California, juvenile offenders are extremely protected, Ward said. 

Police are not even allowed to question suspects and must rely heavily on evidence and witness testimony. Juvenile records, including names, are sealed and unavailable for public view.

Kroutil said his officers are working closely with prosecutors to navigate the complex case. 

District Attorney Tim Ward asked the public for their patience. 

“Please bear with me as I navigate this in the best, most ethical way that I can,” he said. “Always giving priority to preserving the integrity of the process and any potential prosecution of a case.”

If convicted, the suspects legally can’t serve a prison sentence after 25 years old. In some cases, that age is dropped to 23. 

Murder Maps

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MurderMaps.com - the definitive guide to the Crime of Murder, in all its forms, with all its perpetrators and all the details that are created from the crime itself to the cases they create and the justice that prevails.

Murder Maps

MurderMaps.com

MurderMaps.com - the definitive guide to the Crime of Murder, in all its forms, with all its perpetrators and all the details that are created from the crime itself to the cases they create and the justice that prevails.

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