Teenager charged with Aylesford arson has sentencing put off

Kirk Starratt kstarratt@kingscountynews.ca
Published on June 20, 2014
Several fire departments were on the scene of a fire in an abandoned barn on Highway 1 in Aylesford Sunday, April 27.
Rick Balsor

A Kings County boy charged with arson will remain in custody a little longer.

“I want to say I was willing to go to counselling if I got out today,” the 17-year-old boy said during a June 19 court appearance in Kentville. His mother said she also hoped he would be released

However, the boy, who can’t be identified because of his age, will remain in custody until his sentencing on June 25 for his role in two fires April 27 in Aylesford. He pleaded guilty May 8 to a charge of break and enter into a residence and committing an indictable offence therein; intentionally causing damage by fire to a residence, intentionally causing damage by fire to a barn and failing to comply with an undertaking. The matters were adjourned to June 19 to allow time for a pre-sentence report to be prepared.  

He’s also charged with stealing household items valued at less than $5,000 in Aylesford on April 27 the same, day but that charged has been adjourned for disposition.

The teen was arrested on the day of fires in an abandoned house and barn. A 15-year-old boy was also arrested and faces charges, although he has yet to appear in court.

The owner of the house is seeking $50,560 in restitution for the uninsured properties.

Crown Jim Fyfe said he is arguing that this is an exceptional case where a term of custody is required. The Crown is recommending six months in custody, with two years of probation with conditions following the boy’s release. Defence attorneys Ken Greer and Robert Stewart are calling for an open custody order with probation.

Judge Claudine MacDonald adjourned sentencing to give more consideration to the exceptional circumstances of the case and to review the case law provided.

The teen pleaded guilty June 19 to charges of theft from the Kingston Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation store Jan. 26; break, enter and theft of an Argo from Nova Scotia Power Feb. 1 and theft from the Kingston Superstore March 9. These matters have also been adjourned to June 25 for sentencing.

The boy is also charged with uttering threats of death or bodily harm in Cambridge on Feb. 25 in relation to a lockdown at Central Kings Rural High School. These charges have been adjourned for disposition.

The teen is also accused of sexual assault and sexual touching involving an underage girl in Aylesford on Oct. 29, 2013. These charges are still before the court.

Details of the arsons

At a sentencing hearing for a Kings County boy who has pleaded guilty to several charges, Crown Jim Fyfe reviewed the facts surrounding the offences.

On April 27, the Kingston RCMP was called by the Aylesford Fire Department about a suspicious fire at an abandoned residence in Aylesford. Soon thereafter, another fire was spotted at a barn two properties over. Two young men were observed running from the barn and down a trail.

After being arrested, the two youths were interviewed. The 17-year-old said his 15-year-old friend was visiting and they decided to set the house on fire. The court heard that the boys broke into the house and used paper soaked in furnace oil to start the blaze. They allegedly broke into a chest and stole two clocks, which were hidden in a jacket in the woods along a trail.

The boys were watching first responders fighting the fire at the house and decided to go light a nearby barn on fire.

Defence attorneys Ken Greer and Robert Stewart are representing the boy. The defence said the boy denies taking the clocks or anything else from the house and denies starting the barn fire. Fyfe said the facts from police indicate that the boy was an active participant in the barn fire as well.

Judge Claudine MacDonald said the boy either knowingly lit the barn fire or was a party to the offence and “knew full well what was happening.” Whether he lit the fire or not is a question of degree.

Fyfe said it’s “very troubling” that a second fire was lit while the first was being fought and it illustrates that the boy was “out of control” on the day in question.

The owner of the house was not living there at the time. He visited weekly to maintain the property and kept antiques of sentimental value there. The man was married for 70 years until his wife passed away two years ago. The man lost their wedding gifts, which were stored in the attic, in the blaze.

Stewart told the court the boy is a first-time offender who was bullied at school and by two siblings and has spent time in foster care.

Stewart said the boy has been described as a “follower”, which is consistent with the facts surrounding the arson charges. It was after a friend came to visit that the decision was made to set the house on fire.

Stewart said there is a plan including Family and Children’s Services and the boy’s family for after his release.

Stewart said the pre-sentence report speaks to the teen’s remorse for the arson and the loss of the wedding gifts “sunk in” with the boy.

Other offences

On March 9, the teen was observed stealing $134 worth of steaks from the Kingston Superstore. When located and arrested on March 11, he gave a statement that he took the steaks to sell to buy cigarettes and food. He told the RCMP “times are tough.”

On Feb. 1, the Kingston RCMP was advised that a 2008 Argo Avenger belonging to Nova Scotia Power was stolen from a secured area at G.W. Sampson. Video surveillance showed two males inside the secured area. They cut through barbed wire to gain access. The teen started the Argo, valued at $30,000, with a screwdriver. Straps holding it to a trailer were cut and the machine was driven off the trailer and through a gate, breaking a lock. A photo of the Argo was entered as an exhibit.

The Argo was driven toward Middleton on a trail and hidden in the woods. It has not been recovered. When he was arrested on another matter on March 11, he was found to be wearing clothes that matched what one of the males in the surveillance video was wearing and his boot tread matched tracks left in the snow.

The defence said the boy was advised that the Argo was sold in the Lawrencetown area, but the teen doesn’t know who purchased it and the teen didn’t receive any benefit from the sale.

In the case of the NSLC thefts, Fyfe said the boy was caught on video surveillance on Jan. 26 putting two bottles of rum in his clothing and leaving without paying. After he was arrested on another matter, the teen was interviewed and admitted to taking the rum.