Local News

Hoke junior firefighters accused of setting fires out of boredom

Posted April 27, 2012 3:24 p.m. EDT
Updated April 27, 2012 6:13 p.m. EDT

— Five Hoke County junior volunteer firefighters set buildings and brush on fire and then came back to extinguish them because they were bored and wanted a thrill, according to county Fire Marshal Freddie Johnson.

Hector Cruz Jr., 19, David Landry, 18, Alveano Devon Blackwell, 17, and Dayeshandre Kemp and Justin King, both 16, are accused of setting four buildings on fire between Feb. 20 and March 24 and four brush fires between March 4 and April 14.

All five worked with the Hillcrest Fire Department and have since been dismissed, fire officials said.

Cruz is charged with five counts of felony conspiracy, one count of felony breaking and entering, three counts of burning certain buildings, two counts of misdemeanor larceny and one count of filing a false police report.

Kemp is charged with two counts of felony conspiracy, one count of burning certain buildings and two counts of misdemeanor larceny of gasoline and road flares.

Landry is charged with five counts of felony conspiracy, three counts of burning certain buildings, two counts of felony breaking and entering and four counts of misdemeanor larceny.

Kemp, Cruz and Landry were released on unsecured bonds to the custody of their parents. Similar charges were pending for King and Blackwell.

They are not charged with arson, officials said, because no one was inside the buildings that were burned.

"All the kids were smart, kept A-B averages in school," said Hillcrest Fire Chief Michael Scott. "They went down the wrong path. They ruined their life at such a young age."

Four of the teens attend Hoke County High School, and the fifth is home-schooled.

Officials say an investigation into the fires began April 14, when investigators received a call reporting fires in a wooded area behind the Walmart in Raeford. The sheriff's office said a caller provided information about three suspects and a license plate number for a vehicle.

One of the houses that burned – an empty two-story colonial – was near Linda Mailman's house. She saw an eerie glow through the trees, she said, and was scared.

"It started going through the woods ... which was going to head to my house," Mailman said. "I'm shocked. I'm shocked, and it makes me angry that they have nothing better to do than to pull a stunt like that ... I don't even know who would hire them right now if they see that on their record."