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High school arsonists to be sent to juvenile lock-down.

Byline: Bill Bishop The Register-Guard

A pair of 14-year-old boys who started fires that caused up to $500,000 damage to North Eugene High School on Dec. 30 were assigned Wednesday to the MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn and will remain under the jurisdiction of the Oregon Youth Authority until age 25.

The action came after hearings in Lane County Juvenile Court when it was revealed that Justin Tyler Rogers and Richard Allen Stegge also set some smaller fires, including one in a trash bin at a church and another at a residence on Kourt Drive.

Both have a history of setting fires, Juvenile Counselor Angie Means said.

Stegge caused a fire that burned his family's home in Texas when he was 3, she said. He previously was on probation with juvenile authorities in Klamath County. Rogers began setting fires in first grade, starting blazes in his backyard and using aerosol cans as blowtorches, she said.

Rogers recruited Stegge for the high school arson, Means said. Three fires were set in a hallway near the wood shop and in the gym. School officials said quick response by firefighters prevented more serious damage. Class disruption was minimal, but three basketball games were moved while repairs were being made.

Local juvenile officials studied the boys' backgrounds, their family histories and personal characteristics before recommending they be in care of the youth authority and assigned to MacLaren, a locked-down training school in Woodburn where they will get education, counseling and treatment for their fire-setting behavior.

Both boys set fires to release anger that they felt over events in their lives, Means said. Stegge's specific troubles were not aired, but Rogers witnessed years of domestic violence.

"Justin has put himself in a place where he is a very high risk to the community," Means told Lane County Juvenile Court Judge Kip Leonard.

The boys' behavior pattern is familiar, Leonard said. A youth who lives around domestic violence learns he has no recourse, develops no assertiveness skill, learns to accept setbacks and frustration, and has role models who use violence. Rogers' victimization led to his choice of fire-setting as an outlet for anger, Leonard said.

"It is no excuse," the judge said in court. "It gives us some understanding of what has happened."

Rogers declined to say anything in court. Stegge read a letter of apology, saying he didn't stop to think about the people who care about their school and the importance of education for finding a good job. He said he knows it is up to him to change his life for the better.

Both boys have been held in detention since their arrest. Because of a lack of resources in state and local juvenile justice programs, the only course of action available is to lock them up with the state's most hardened young offenders at MacLaren, Leonard said.

The judge told both boys that MacLaren personnel will help them learn to not allow their past troubles to control their future behavior, but each boy must choose the hard road of change in order to succeed. The boys will remain in custody until they no longer pose a threat and will be under community supervision after release until age 25. They also must pay restitution. The amount has not been set but will range in the tens of thousands of dollars.

North Eugene Principal Peter Tromba said students have recovered from feeling violated and endangered. He said students were coming forward with tips for police even before the district offered a $1,000 reward. Two student tipsters split the reward, he said.
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Title Annotation:Crime; The two 14-year-old boys, who have a history of setting fires, authorities say, will be under supervision until they are 25
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Mar 2, 2006
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