Teen connected to Tualatin church fire sentenced to probation

Teen connected to Tualatin church fire sentenced to probation »Play Video
Pastor Nathan Brandt stands in the damaged sanctuary of his church, the Living Savior Lutheran Church.

TUALATIN, Ore. – A judge on Monday sentenced a 13-year-old boy who was involved in a Tualatin church fire to probation and counseling for five years or less.

It was a sentence far less than his 14-year-old co-defendant who could be in juvenile custody for 11 years.

There are two reasons for the difference.

First, the boy sentenced Monday pleaded guilty to only burglary. His lawyer said the boy did not have any intention to set the Living Savior Lutheran Church on fire in March. Instead, it was only to break into the church. It was the other boy who set the fire and pleaded guilty to the more severe charge of arson.

The second difference is what the boys have done since the fire. The 13-year-old boy has followed all the rules asked of him unlike the other teen, according to the judge.

The 13-year-old will be able to stay out of custody as long as he follows his rules of probation which include (in addition to counseling) that he undergo drug testing and write a letter of apology to the church.

The fire caused more than $2 million of damage to the church. The teens broke into the church looking for money.

Church members say they want the boys to learn a lesson and not have the incident destroy their lives.

The mother of the 13-year-old said after Monday's sentencing that her son is a good kid who made a bad decision.

Both boys' families may be on the hook for some restitution to the church, depending on their liability insurance. It could be hundreds of thousands of dollars.