Students charged with burning down principal’s home as revenge for suspension

Three Idaho high school students were arrested Wednesday for burning down their principal’s home in an apparent act of retaliation.

Chief Mark Clark of the Payette police said a fourth student, an eighth-grader, would likely be in custody soon as well, reported KTVB-TV.

Police tracked down the students, all under 18, after they allegedly boasted on social media about setting the fire which destroyed Payette High School Principal Mark Heleker’s home on Feb. 22. Investigators said the students may have been acting in retaliation against their principal for recent suspensions at the school, according to KTVB.

“It’s a shock, no matter what the reason might be, that they would actually carry something this far,” said Heleker, who lived in the home with his wife and 24-year-old daughter for the last 16 years. His daughter noticed the flames when walking the dog that night. She alerted her parents and removed pets from the home, but Heleker said the house and three cars in the driveway were a total loss.

While three of the students face felony charges for conspiracy to commit arson, Clark said one of the suspects will be charged with first-degree arson as police determined the blaze was intentionally set, KTVB reported.

“Those charges are pretty serious because it automatically puts them into the adult court,” said Clark.

The suspects allegedly saw the home in flames before they drove away, but did not call 911, Clark told KTVB.

“I guess what I find astonishing is the fact that we have four teenage males that not one of them understood what could have happened by lighting a plastic garbage can on fire while it’s up against somebody’s house,” the police chief said. “We could have easily had a homicide here and people could have died in this fire. It was that serious,” he added.

Students at the school set up an online fundraiser to help the principal who has been with the school district for 22 years. “We’re going to be ok and we’re moving on,” said Heleker.

Watch the news report in the video below.


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