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Blair District Attorney wants adult charges against teenage fire bugs

Blair County District Attorney Dave Gorman is looking to have two Tyrone teens tried as adults in the arson fire at a downtown church earlier this month.
Tyrone police arrested a 17-year-old male on the same day the fire happened on June 5. A few days later, a second teen, a 16-year-old boy, was arrested in Altoona.
The teens were charged in the fire that heavily damaged the Christ United Methodist Church in the early morning hours on June 5. Church members were left to attend services in the parking lot that morning. Since then services have been moved to the chapel at Epworth manor while repairs are made at the church’s educational unit. Once completed, services will be moved to that location while more extensive repairs are made to the sanctuary.
Gorman said the two teens face a host of charges stemming from the fire. Those charges include arson, burglary, recklessly endangering another person as well as other charges including, trespassing, conspiracy to commit theft, institutional vandalism and failure to prevent a catastrophe.
The names of the teens have not been made public since they were both under 18 at the time of the incident. Gorman confirmed one of the teens turned 18 within days after the fire. If their cases are moved to adult court their names would become a matter of public record.
Gorman and Charles Wasovich, the juvenile prosecutor, reviewed the case and a determination was made to seek having the teens tried in adult court.
A judge in the Blair County Court of Common Pleas would rule on a petition from Gorman to have the cases against the teens moved from the juvenile system. As of Wednesday, Gorman did not know exactly when the petition would be heard by the court.
He said he is seeking to have the case moved from the juvenile system to adult court because of the age of the suspects. He said the alleged acts are felonies and showed an “adult intent.”
He also said the alleged acts showed “a sophistication” in that fires were set in five places throughout the church. Those and other actions are being considered “intentional.” Gorman said he also took into consideration the impact the fire had on church members who had to find another location to attend services.
Gorman said upon conviction, the options for punishment in the juvenile system would vary, in that the teens could be placed in detention centers or released back to their parents. In the adult system, they could face jail time, probation or be assigned to an intermediate punishment program.
The Christ United Methodist Church opened its doors in 1913 and suffered at least $500,000 in damage as a result of the fire at the building located at the intersection of 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.