Glen Burnie teen found guilty of arson

July 17, 1996|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

A 19-year-old Glen Burnie man was found guilty in juvenile court yesterday of burning down the Wawa convenience store in Columbia's Oakland Mills village last year.

Howard County Circuit Court Master Bernard A. Raum found the teen-ager guilty of arson, malicious destruction and conspiracy in the April 1995 fire, which caused $400,000 in damage.

The fire prompted an outcry after residents learned that the neighborhood convenience store would not be rebuilt.

Prosecutors recommended probation, counseling and restitution of $10,000 for the teen-ager's punishment, which will be decided Aug. 27. His name has not been revealed because he was 17 when the store burned and was prosecuted as a juvenile.

In court yesterday, Gary Weissner, the teen's attorney, sought to convey to the court that the teen-ager had set fire to the building by mistake. The chalk-faced youth sat beside Weissner, wearing a dark suit. His parents sat just behind him in the courtroom.

Weissner read from a confession taken by police one month after the fire in which the teen-ager told police: "We didn't mean to. We just burned the papers."

Weissner told police that he and a friend -- Sam Philips, also 17 -- had gone to meet some girls at the Wawa that night. When the girls did not show up, the bored teen-agers took out lighters and set a stack of newspapers on fire outside the store, Assistant State's Attorney William Tucker said in court.

The teen-agers heard the sirens of the fire trucks as they were walking to Philips' Owen Brown house, according to the confession.

Although prosecutors pushed to have both defendants tried as adults, only Philips, who also is now 19, was waived to adult status.

The charges against him may soon be dismissed. Circuit Court Judge James Dudley suppressed his confession last month after ruling it was involuntary and that Philips had not been properly advised of his rights.

Assistant State's Attorney Janine Rice has asked Dudley to reconsider that decision. Otherwise, she said, she will drop the charges at a July 22 hearing.

Pub Date: 7/17/96

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