PORTERVILLE, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – The judge in the trial of two teenagers accused of setting a fire that killed two Porterville firefighters inside the city’s library has dismissed murder charges against both of them.
Neither of the two defendants, who were both 13 at the time, have been officially identified. They were on trial on allegations that they started the fire that killed Porterville Fire Captain Ray Figueroa and Firefighter Patrick Jones.
Court officials add that one of the two teenagers will still be facing arson charges, but the other will not be facing any criminal charges.
“The court made its decision today [Monday],” said defense attorney Richard Alvarez. “All parties worked together: the district attorney, the judge and the defense at arriving at a just decision. We feel the court made a good decision as to the homicide charges. I disagreed with the court as to the arson.”
The judge said that a key piece of evidence that led to this decision being made was a recording between the two teens in the back of a police car which established that one of the teens knew he lit a paper with a lighter – and the other teen spoke about how he didn’t light the fire.
The attorneys and the judge went back and forth over whether or not the teens, because of their age, could be legally responsible for the charges – and if they knew what they were doing was wrong.
“It’s been a long road to get here,” said John Sliney, Tulare County Deputy District Attorney. “We’re extremely disappointed.”
Sliney said that he is confident that the allegations brought against the two teenagers were supported by the evidence the DA’s office had collected.
“None of this would have happened if these two minors went to the library and set that fire on that day,” said Sliney.
The families of the two firefighters killed in the Porterville Library fire say they are very disappointed at this outcome.
The teenager who is facing arson charges is scheduled to return to court on Sept. 20.