Local News

Teens Charged With Old Eureka School Fire

Posted May 16, 2006

— Authorities in Wayne County have arrested four teens in connection with a fire at an historic landmark in Eureka.

On May 9, fire crews responded to a blaze at the former Eureka Elementary School building. A team of investigators determined that the fire was deliberately set.

The landmark building, which many hoped would soon be a beautiful church sanctuary, is now a charred mess.

Shirley Hobbs works next door. Both of her children went to school in the building.

"We've got some fond memories of this building," said Hobbs.

Investigators arrested and charged 16-year-old Bobby Artis Jr. with breaking and entering, larceny and burning of a church. Two 15-year-olds and a 13-year-old also face similar juvenile charges.

"That was very devastating to me," said Hobbbs. "I had no idea that a teenager would come in and do that kind of damage to that building."

Authorities haven't yet zeroed in on a possible motive in the arson.

"We don't even know if it was accidental or intentional," said Eureka police Lt. Tom Efler.

The Heart of David Ministries deacon Glenn Lancaster is still waiting for a final assessment from the insurance company, but said his congregation is determined to build a sanctuary at the site. He said that he feels sorry for the teens who now face serious charges.

"I think they got caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said.

"I don't believe those kids really understood the meaning of what they were doing, but you got to be held accountable," said Hobbs.

Built in the 1920s, the school closed in 1991. The church bought the building several years ago. The major renovation project was scheduled to begin within a month.

"It will be a setback, but we know God will provide," said Lancaster.


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