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Sympathy for boy facing arson charge

Ovid, N.Y. -- The feeling of sympathy for a young boy and his family was evident Thursday in the small Village of Ovid. This was true despite the destruction caused by a fire on Main Street that authorities now believe the boy was responsible for.

The 11-year-old is charged with fourth-degree arson. The class E felony carries a possible prison sentence of up to four years if committed by an adult. The boy was charged as a juvenile delinquent and the case will be handled in family court, where all records remain sealed.

"He was probably playing with matches, I assume, but I don't think that an 11 year-old would do it intentionally," said Rich Worrell, one of many witnesses to watch the fire burn last week.

The fire destroyed four buildings on Main Street, including storefronts, restaurants and many apartments. Wanda Osborne lived in one of those apartments and lost nearly everything she owned.

"I had hoped that if it had been started any other way, my stuff would be replaced," she said. "But since it's an 11-year-old, it's just a loss."

At the same time, Osborne felt sympathy for the boy and said she hoped he would be in a better place after the dust from his case settles.

"I'm hoping they get ahold of him, help him get through this so that you know he doesn't end up in worse places," she said. "I was kind of upset when I heard that they arrested him. An 11-year-old, (he) probably got scared. I have no idea, but the bottom line is he's 11.

A press release from the Seneca County Sheriffs Office explained that the boy admitted he was playing with a lighter and accidentally set trash on fire behind the New Dragon Chinese restaurant.

Authorities stated the boy attempted to extinguish the fire but fled the scene once the fire grew. The fire spread to propane tanks and the nearby buildings rapidly.

"It's one of the worst we've had to deal with in this community, that's for sure, Ovid Fire Chief Bill Palmer said. "I don't know who he is. They haven't told me who the young man is, but I'm sure in this small community I either know his parents or his grandparents."

Still, the sympathy was evident, and parents like Jessica Burns seized on teaching moments for her young children.

"I think it will be a good example over the years watching it rebuild and talk about the dangers of playing with fire," said Burns, who grew up in the area. "I guess all I can say is you can parent the best that you can, but really the child makes decisions and you can't always help what the child does, and you may feel guilty or bad, but really if you've done the best that you could then you can't really do any more."


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Washington Times