GLADE SPRING, Va. - Investigators in Washington County, Virginia have determined that the devastating blaze that destroyed a 180-year-old structure was, in fact, an arson.
The most troubling fact about the case is that an 8-year-old foster child is the one being charged.
This is a case in which someone must be held responsible for the destruction caused. On the other hand you cannot ignore the age of the boy and whether or not he can truly grasp the consequences of his actions, not only in his life but for the lives of all of those affected.
That will be a major point of contention in the courtroom as this case moves forward.
The 180-year-old home went up in flames in a matter of minutes on December 27. Investigators were able to determine how the fire started, and more importantly, who started it.
"It has been determined that it was incendiary in nature, meaning basically that it was set," explained Washington County Sheriff Fred Newman. "We have filed petitions against an 8-year-old male juvenile for that fire."
The boy being charged was a foster child that had only been at the home for three days before the blaze. His foster mother, Lana Coalson, and her husband have ten other kids in their home right now.
While Coalson is saddened by what happened, she said Thursday she hopes it may ultimately mean a better future for the 8-year-old boy.
"I don't like it," Lana said. "I feel like he's really too young to understand even what has taken place. I feel real bad for him, but that might be what it's going to take to really get him some help."
Since the fire, the Coalsons have been staying at a local church with the other 10 children.
It would be easy to have a resentment or to be angry if smoldering rubble was all that was left standing of your home. But in keeping with their spirit and showing their true character, the Coalsons tell us they're very thankful for this experience because it has brought their family closer than they have ever been.
"It's been a good way for us to all kind of be together and connect," said Lana Coalson. "We're probably spending more time now together than we had for a while because we're forced to, but that's good."
There are a couple of options that the courts have in this case in terms of sentencing based on whether the child knew what he was doing. A worst-case scenario would keep him in a juvenile detention center until he turns 21 years old.
The court could also hand down a undetermined sentence, meaning the sentence is dependent on the development of the boy both mentally and emotionally down the road.
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