School fire suspects arraigned on arson charges

Arson investigators are at the scene of the fire at Trace Elementary School on Dana Avenue where one firefighter was injured.
October 15, 2010 5:00:15 PM PDT
Santa Clara County District Attorney Dolores Carr said charging a pair of teenage boys as adults in connection with a July fire that caused $10 million in damage to San Jose's Trace Elementary School was appropriate due to the ramifications of the crime.

The boys, identified as Lazarus Reavallez, 16, and Kliefert Guiang, 17, both of San Jose, briefly appeared in court this afternoon wearing sagging white T-shirts and brown pants, their hands bound in handcuffs.

They were arraigned on one count of aggravated arson where property damage and other losses exceed $6.5 million.

"The charge that we have filed requires that the fire was set with premeditation and was willfully set," Carr told reporters following the arraignment. "This was not the case of kids fooling around with something that got out of control."

Both are being held at juvenile hall without bail. They are expected to enter a plea on Wednesday afternoon.

If convicted as charged, the teens could face 10 years to life in prison, Carr said.

Carr said prosecutors looked at many different factors in making their decision to charge Reavallez and Kliefert as adults. She said the investigation was lengthy and extensive and looked at factors such as their past criminal history, though she would not elaborate on the nature of their alleged crimes.

Tips and forensic evidence led to the teens' arrest Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, San Jose Fire Marshal Ivan Lee said.

The motive for the arson remains under investigation. Lee acknowledged speculation that it may have been gang-related, but said that has not been determined yet.

Both boys are students, although neither had attended Trace, the school at 651 Dana Ave. where the fire occurred July 5, destroying 16 classrooms, the school's library and administrative offices. The school was able to open on schedule in September using portable classrooms.

The fire investigation was a multi-agency collaborative effort that included the San Jose Fire Department, San Jose Police Department, Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office, and the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office.


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