Volume 1 Number 20
May 17, 2004











TEXT-ONLY VERSION


TEENS ARRESTED FOR MULTIPLE ARSONS

Three teens have been arrested after confessing to setting several fires in the Ft. Myers Shores area. The arrests come after Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Tom Gallagher issued a warning to parents to be on guard against juvenile arson as the summer months approach.

“Arson has the highest rate of juvenile involvement of all other serious crimes,” Gallagher said. “Given the chance, children will play with fire, and most fire deaths involve children. These are preventable occurrences that can be stopped with education and information.”

Gallagher issued the warning during Arson Awareness Week.. Florida is one of seven states participating in a new Juvenile Firesetting Intervention and Prevention Project. The Florida project is being coordinated by the State Fire Marshal’s Office with funding from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

The arrested teens, identified as Richard Shambaugh and Christopher Smith, both 15, and Andrew Smith, 13, confessed to setting at least eight fires in the Ft. Myers Shores area during the previous two months. The youths set fire to numerous structures, including a mailbox, two vehicles, a dumpster, two portable toilets and a business, investigators said. The loss to the business alone, Estate Treasures, is estimated at nearly $200,000.

The investigation, conducted jointly by the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, began Tuesday when the teens confessed to stealing and killing two ducks and then placing them into a portable toilet and setting it ablaze with the ducks inside.

The teens are charged with several crimes, including arson, theft, cruelty to animals, and criminal mischief. The investigation continues to determine if the youths were involved in any other fires in the area.

The Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations is the law enforcement branch of the Division of State Fire Marshal that assists other state and local fire and law enforcement agencies in the investigation of fires of suspicious origin.

Anyone with information regarding this or any suspicious fire can call the Bureau of Fire & Arson Investigations at 239-278-7525, 24 hours a day. Information may also be mailed to the Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations, 4700 Terminal Drive, Suite 4, Ft. Myers, Florida, 33907. Up to a $2,500 reward is offered for information leading to an arrest.