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No jail time for youth in Tyrone church fire case

An 18-year-old Tyrone youth will not have to serve any jail time for his role in an arson that caused heavy damage to the Christ United Methodist Church last June.
An agreement was worked out yesterday for the youth to pay restitution and testify against another suspect, a 17-year-old male. Last month, the 18-year-old was expected to enter a plea and agree to testify against the other youth. John Dively, a spokesperson for Blair County’s Juvenile Parole and Probation Office, said when the time came, the youth refused to enter into the agreement.
Dively said there was not supposed to be a disposition of the case yesterday, but when the youth’s attorney appeared in motions court he said the teen was ready to make a plea. Negotiations between the attorney and prosecutors where held and a deal was worked out for teen to admit to the charge, make restitution and testify against the other suspect.
As part of the arrangement, the teen will not be supervised and will not be placed on probation. The youth was just days shy of his 18th birthday at the time of the fire last June. As such, he could have been ordered by the court to have supervision through Juvenile Parole and Probation until he was 21.
A visiting Senior Judge John K. Reilly presented the agreement to the juvenile court. The judge said he would not accept the plea agreement unless the Tyrone Police would agree they accepted the no supervision portion of it.
Tyrone Chief Joseph Beachem told The Daily Herald he would have preferred supervision but went along with the decision for no supervision. Chief Beachem said he was pleased “the youth took responsibility and will testify against the other youth and make restitution.”
Dively said if teen doesn’t follow through on the agreement such as failing to testify against the other suspect, the judge has the right to impose supervision or detention at that point. Dively said the teen would also have a felony on his record.
Dively said one of the reasons the 18-year-old did not receive probation was because he had not been involved in any other criminal activity since the fire. He said the teen also had not been in trouble with the law before the fire.
The 17-year-old in the case has a hearing scheduled of April 19. Dively said he wasn’t sure if the charges regarding the fire would be attached at that time. Dively said the teen is in a detention home for a diagnostic evaluation on other charges.
The Christ United Methodist Church will reopen its sanctuary for regular services this Sunday at 9:30 a.m. for Palm Sunday. The church has undergone major restoration and members briefly held services elsewhere before returning to part of the church that was restored ahead of the sanctuary.
The Christ United Methodist Church opened its doors in 1913 and suffered hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage as a result of the fire at the building located at the intersection of 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.