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Police arrest student for setting fire at school

BONNE TERRE — Authorities have arrested a 16-year-old Bonne Terre resident they say started a small fire last week in a boys restroom at North County High School.

The student was arrested at about noon Monday at the high school after several interviews were conducted. He was taken to the St. Francois County Juvenile Detention Center in Farmington where he will be housed awaiting a detention hearing.

Police believe formal charges of second-degree arson will be filed this week. Because he is a juvenile, his name is not being released.

North County High School Principal Ron McCutchen said students provided the school with several leads Friday but many were “dead-ends.”

“There were a couple very strong, good leads,” McCutchen said. “By the time we talked to law enforcement Friday afternoon, we had a name of who we thought it was.”

On Monday, Bonne Terre Police Sgt. Bill Stegall, Juvenile Officer Jay Scruggs and Fire Marshal Tim Walsh interviewed students and the suspect. McCutchen said after a few hours, they had enough evidence “and the suspect did confess.”

Stegall said the student confessed to setting toilet paper on fire with a cigarette lighter at about 3 p.m. He said the juvenile said the fire was not meant to harm anyone, it had just gotten out of control.

Superintendent Dr. Yancy Poorman has indicated that if the student were caught he would face the maximum school disciplinary action, which could mean expulsion.

McCutchen said it is something the superintendent and possibly the school board will decide.

The fire was reported by a student after 3 p.m. Thursday after school had dismissed. A custodian was able to extinguish the fire and the damage was limited to a toilet paper dispenser and a bathroom wall.

McCutchen said the staff responded very well and evacuated the building promptly. He was glad the custodian was able to extinguish the fire before it got into the ceiling.

Teresa Ressel is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 179 or at

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