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Update: Teen charged with arson in Model Mill fire released to parents

Becky Campbell • Updated Feb 3, 2017 at 4:52 PM

A teenager questioned the night of the Model Mill fire in September that heavily damaged the historic building was released to his parents on house arrest in a judge’s ruling Friday.

The 17-year-old boy, whose name was not released, appeared Friday morning before Johnson City Juvenile Court Judge Sharon Green on arson and criminal trespassing charges.

The teen was escorted, in handcuffs, into the courtroom by a Johnson City police officer. He sat at a table with his attorney, Chris Byrd, and his mother was also allowed to sit beside him. Two other people, a man and young woman, also attended the hearing. At the state table sat Assistant District Attorney General Kelly Lowe, Johnson City Police Sgt. Mike Adams and Johnson City Fire Marshal Mike Hill.

Green went through the process of telling the boy his rights, what he was charged with and if he understood that and what was going on.

In a quiet voice, the teen answered the judge’s questions with a “yes, ma’am” or “I do, your honor.”

Johnson City police said Friday officers found the 17-year-old boy inside the historic building at 500 W. Walnut St. minutes before officers saw flames coming from the third floor. Police had been called there to check on an unauthorized person in the building.

The teen was detained after the fire, and after a four-month investigation by the Johnson City Police Department and the Johnson City Fire Department, police placed the charges Thursday.

The boy was held in the Upper East Tennessee Juvenile Detention Facility in Johnson City before Friday’s hearing.

After Green finished the procedural part of the hearing, Lowe and Byrd announced they had an agreement for the teen to be released into the custody of his parents, but with several restrictions. He will be monitored by a juvenile probation officer through an electronic ankle device and can only go to and from school, attend after-school academic activities, to and from work and attend any medical appointments.

Aside from school and work, the teen must be in the physical presence of his parents, Green said. She warned him if he goes outside the area allowed by the electronic monitoring, he risks his release being revoked until the case is settled.

Green reset the case for a status update on March 17.

The judge allowed a Johnson City Press reporter to observe the proceeding and released the petition outlying the charges — the same document as a warrant in adult court — with the boy’s name redacted.

The Press filed a request under the Tennessee Open Records law, which allows media access to juvenile proceedings if there would not be extreme prejudice to the juvenile. Green granted the request with some rules — no photos, no naming the juvenile and no identifying his address.

At the time of the fire, the Model Mill property was owned by the Johnson City area Chamber of Commerce and was amid sale to Summers-Taylor Inc. Despite the fire, the Elizabethton-based company proceeded with the purchase and its plan to remodel the long-dormant building into its new headquarters and other business space.

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Earlier report posted at 9:48 a.m. Friday:

A teenager was charged with arson Thursday resulting from the Model Mill fire in September.

Johnson City police said Friday officers found the 17-year-old boy inside the historic building at 500 West Walnut St. minutes before officers saw flames coming from the third floor. Police had been called there to check on an unauthorized person in the building.

The teen was detained after the fire, and after a four-month investigation by the Johnson City Police Department and the Johnson City Fire Department, police placed charges of arson and criminal trespassing on Thursday.

The boy was held in the Upper East Tennessee Juvenile Detention Facility in Johnson City. A hearing was to be set in Johnson City Juvenile Court at a later date.

At the time of the fire, the property was owned by the Johnson City area Chamber of Commerce and was amid sale to Summers-Taylor Inc. Despite the fire, the Elizabethton-based company proceeded with the purchase and its plan to remodel the long-dormant building into its new headquarters and other business space.

Keep visiting JohnsonCityPress.com for more on this developing story.

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