May 13, 1997 in Nation/World

Suspected Vandal Arrested Six Times For Varied Crimes Former Sacajawea Student, Friend Trashed School, Church

Adam Lynn And Jeanette White S Staff writer
 

One of the boys suspected of rampaging through Sacajawea Middle School, a church and post office has been arrested six times in the past year, according to court records.

The 13-year-old former Sacajawea student’s criminal record includes convictions for car theft, third-degree theft and burglary.

He and his friend, also 13, were charged Monday with second-degree burglary and first-degree malicious mischief in Sunday’s vandalism spree.

The worst damage was at Sacajawea.

Authorities say the pair raged through the school for 90 minutes after 1 a.m., shattering windows, smashing computers and splashing paint. Damage at the South Hill school is estimated at $100,000.

Last year, Spokane School District 81 spent a total of $91,000 on labor to clean up vandalism. But that covered damage at 49 schools.

“This is the worst destruction people who have been in the business a long time have ever seen,” said Sacajawea Principal Herb Rotchford.

Students arriving at school Monday morning were upset to find a classroom window boarded over and their art projects trashed.

“There’s a real sense of violation on the kids’ part, some real strong feelings of anger and frustration,” Rotchford said.

Assistant Principal Paula Ronhaar was shaken by a death threat scrawled in gang lingo on her office wall.

“I don’t think we can ever discount it - ever,” Rotchford said. “The amount of physical energy and brute force it took for them to do the amount of destruction they did is incredible.”

The pair also is suspected of wreaking $5,000 in havoc at nearby Manito United Methodist Church and vandalizing the Manito post office before moving on to the school, just a few blocks away.

Pastor John Shaffer said whoever broke into the church rifled drawers in a counseling office in the basement, put metal objects inside two microwave ovens to short-circuit them and shot foam out of six fire extinguishers.

“They treated this place so badly,” Shaffer said. “I’ve never seen a place so trashed.”

None of the damage occurred in the church’s sanctuary, and services were held Sunday as scheduled, the pastor said.

The vandalism at the post office, which included breaking into post office boxes and scattering mail, may lead to federal charges, authorities said.

School officials weren’t surprised when they learned the former Sacajawea student was involved.

The boy has a “severe attendance problem” at the school and refused to attend class so often district officials finally took him to court under the Becca bill, designed in part to tackle truancy.

He recently enrolled in a program for kids with poor attitudes toward school at District 81’s Havermale Alternative Center.

Students get eight weeks of one-on-one attention in the program, but the boy never showed up, officials said.

His friend is currently on a 20-day suspension from an alternative program for at-risk students in the West Valley School District.

He has no convictions, but was arrested earlier this year for trespassing and sniffing glue, according to Juvenile Court officials. Those charges are pending.

At his detention hearing, the boy held his buzz-cut head between his hands as the adults around him discussed his fate.

Juvenile probation officer Carl Bruscoe said the teenager had been expelled from Centennial Middle School and recently was kicked out of his father’s home in the Valley. The boy’s mother lives in North Idaho.

Neither of the boy’s parents, nor his legal guardian, attended the hearing.

“I’m really sorry for what I did,” the teenager told Juvenile Court Commissioner Royce Moe.

Moe called the boy “a serious risk of harm to the community” and ordered him held in the county juvenile detention center.

The former Sacajawea student waived his hearing and also will remain in custody.

He served seven days in juvenile detention last fall after he admitted breaking into a building at Sacred Heart Medical Center with a friend.

Once inside, the two “ate food, broke light bulbs and mest (sic) with fire extinguishers,” according to a written statement the boy gave to court officials.

Shaffer said his congregation is praying for the boys.

“We’re hopeful that something can be done to help these two boys,” he said. “Although I’m a little pessimistic about what can be done.”

, DataTimes


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