Marilyn Turcotte was a little nervous about leaving her car parked at the Harman Elementary School, but she didn't have much choice when told space was limited at the campground where she was to accompany second-graders on an overnight trip.
The bad news for Turcotte and 13 other parents and teachers came just after breakfast yesterday, when they were summoned to a tent and told their cars had been vandalized. Turcotte's 1989 Nissan Sentra was set afire and gutted.
"I planned on driving down," Turcotte said yesterday while standing in the school parking lot near where her car had been parked. "Butthey said they didn't have enough parking. I thought about vandalism. It's just incredible. I wished they burned themselves up."
Police say they have one suspect in the case and are looking for people who may have seen two 12- or 13-year-old boys damaging the cars.
"The investigation has turned up a witness or two in the adjacent trailer park,but we have been unsuccessful in getting back to them," said police spokesman Lt. Michael Fitzgibbons. "We feel confident that in the next 24 hours we will identify the kids who did this."
The parents had taken the 80 students to Arlington Echo, a nature camp on theSevern River operated by the county school system. Members of the group, including 25 parents and teachers, stayed in cabins Monday nightand returned yesterday afternoon.
"This puts a damper on the day," said Patricia Heflin, one of the chaperones whose car windows were smashed. "They didn't take the wallet, but they trashed the inside."
Four of the parents and teachers said nothing had been taken from their cars. Teresa Jayne, a teacher at the school, said the vandals left a wedding shower present that was in plain view.
Most of the damage to the cars consisted of windows broken either with bricks or ahammer found by police on a nearby hill. Broken glass was scattered around the parking lot and covered theinsides of many cars.
A police officer doing a routine burglary check discovered the damage at 1:20 a.m. yesterday. Fitzgibbons said the officer reported it and checked the area numerous times.
At 6:40 a.m., the officer drove by theschool again and saw flames coming from Turcotte's car, which was destroyed.
Fitzgibbons said the vandals broke down a door to a storage shed owned by James Minton, who lives in a trailer park behind the school, and stole a five-gallon gas can.
They poured the gas into Turcotte's car and set fire to it, Fitzgibbons said. He said policefound evidence that the vandals tried unsuccessfully to set fire to another car by lighting a kite string they had attached to the gas tank.
"Vandalism to cars happens every day of one's life," Fitzgibbons said. "But to have a number like this, it is unusual."
By late afternoon, many parents had come back for their cars. A few called insurance companies and had glass repair trucks come to the school. Others, like Larry Ducey, simply put his 7-year-old son, Joshua, in the car and drove home.
"We came back a little early to get the car," said Ducey, whose Nissan Stanza had most of its side windows shattered. "We had a wonderful time at camp. I'm trying not to let this spoilit."