PORTERVILLE, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — At a scheduled hearing Monday, a Tulare County Judge ordered the early release of the teenager responsible for the Porterville Library fire in February 2020.
That fire lead to the deaths of two Porterville Firefighters, Captain Ray Figueroa, and Patrick Jones.
According to the District Attorney’s office, the teenager who was originally sentenced to six months in juvenile hall for arson in September will be released on or before December 19.
All in all, they will have served less than three months in the six-month sentence, in a case where this 15-year-old and another teen were initially charged with murder.
For the families, they are shocked by what they say is a lack of justice.
“Words can’t really express it, uh, it’s a frustration to disappointment to actually having no faith in the justice system anymore,” said Ramon Figueroa, Captain Ray Figueroa’s father.
“It’s uh, you know, I don’t know… kind of a kick in the teeth if you will. Uh… three months… and all is well,” said John Jones, Patrick Jones’ father.
The news is the latest in disappointments for the Figueroa and Jones families, who have sought a form of punishment they believe is fair for the losses of Ray and Patrick.
“Basically, the court says we have to suck it up because the defendants or the criminals, they’re entitled to more rights than the victims or their families,” said Ramon Figueroa.
Initially, two teens were charged with first-degree murder and arson. The murder charges were dropped; one of the teens no longer faces criminal charges of any kind.
The teen who will be released was the one in juvenile hall for starting the fire.
This teen was initially required to serve six to eight months in juvenile detention. They were also required to serve eight to ten months of probation with grief and PTSD counseling. The judge also ordered 100 hours of volunteer work and a written letter to the families.
According to Patrick’s sister, that letter was essentially a copy-paste for each family, and they say it didn’t mention the two men by name.
“To me, that’s even more of a slap in the face if he didn’t have the decency to address the firefighters by their names. That just showed you how much he put into writing his so-called letter,” said Ramon Figueroa.
Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward, who initially charged the two teens with murder and arson, gave us a statement Monday after he heard of the teenager’s early release.
It reads, ‘We are disappointed in the judge’s order to release the minor no later than December 19. Our thoughts continue to remain firmly with the families of the victims whose holiday season will be marked with empty chairs at the table. We will never forget their sacrifice and bravery.’
As for what the families might do next, John Jones told us today that the only real thing left on the table would be a civil suit.
But as he told us, he doesn’t know what they could gain from it, still without their son and what they believe to be justice.