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‘Hero’ Confesses In Fatal Fire 11-Year-Old Accused Of Setting Apartment Fire That Killed Eight

An 11-year-old boy hailed by his father as a hero for waking up his family during an apartment house fire that killed eight others was accused Tuesday of setting the blaze.

Ray Martin DeFord was taken into custody shortly after noon.

He confessed after talking to detectives for two hours, according to his mother.

“When my husband told me that … I thought, ‘Oh, gosh,”’ Carolyn DeFord said. “I didn’t know what they were going to do to him.”

The Washington County sheriff’s office said the boy would be charged with eight counts of felony murder.

The boy was calm and showed no remorse as he was interviewed at the sheriff’s office, Cmdr. Chuck Leutwyler said.

“I saw no tears or anything,” he said.

The boy was taken to the Donald E. Long juvenile home in Portland. He was to be arraigned Friday as a juvenile. Leutwyler said the law precluded prosecuting the boy as an adult.

Some tenants were not surprised at the boy’s arrest, describing him as a strange and disruptive child who packed rocks in socks to sling at children.

Kim Kelley, who lives in an adjacent apartment complex, said it was not uncommon to see the boy out until 10 or 11 p.m. She said she had seen him out as late as 2 a.m.

“He seemed like he was always on the loose for an 11-year-old,” said Debra Biderain, manager of the adjacent complex. “He just always seemed wild.”

A neighbor, Jared Dairy, 14, said several youths living in the neighborhood were together after the fire when Ray DeFord said, “There’s people up there and they’re just toast now.”

“We couldn’t believe he said that,” Dairy said.

Families of the victims, however, were shocked.

“I never expected the arsonist to be a child,” said Maria Aguilar, 29, whose brother, Jeremias, died in the fire. “If he was an adult, I would ask for the highest punishment.”