VISALIA, Calif. – Charges have been filed against two 13-year-old boys linked to a California library fire that killed two local firefighters.
On Friday afternoon, Tulare County prosecutors filed two counts of murder with special circumstances of multiple murders and arson-related charges.
In California, children under 14 can’t be tried as adults, even if they are charged with serious and violent felonies, such as murder.
The boys denied the charges and remain in jail. They are expected to return to juvenile court on March 11.
“By law, no further information can be provided at this time,” said Stuart Anderson, spokesman for the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office.
Fire Capt. Raymond Figueroa, 35, died Tuesday night. He started with the department in 2007. The body of firefighter Patrick Jones, 25, was found in the rubble Wednesday night, officials said. He had been with the department since 2017.
The historic Porterville City Library was destroyed by flames.
If the suspects were 17, they could be tried as adults, Police Chief Eric Kroutil said in a news conference Thursday.
“They would face a lengthy prison sentence,” he said. “That’s not going to happen in this case.”
Many on social media have expressed their outrage at the state’s criminal justice system.
“They are old enough to know right from wrong, therefore they need to be tried as adults,” Kim Burkart stated in a Facebook post on the Times-Delta page.
“They MURDERED 2 people. They are old enough to be held accountable and charged as adults. Period,” Rean Henderson Lackey wrote.
In California, juvenile offenders are widely protected, District Attorney Tim Ward said. Police are not even allowed to question suspects and must rely heavily on evidence and witness testimony. Juvenile records, including names, are sealed and unavailable for public view.
Kroutil said his officers are working closely with prosecutors to navigate the complex case.
Ward asked the public for patience.
“Please bear with me as I navigate this in the best, most ethical way that I can,” he said. “Always giving priority to preserving the integrity of the process and any potential prosecution of a case.”
If convicted, the suspects legally can’t serve a prison sentence after 25 years old. In some cases, that age is dropped to 23.
Follow Sheyanne Romero on Twitter: @sheyanne_VTD
This article originally appeared on Visalia Times-Delta: California library fire: Boys, 13, charged with firefighters’ murder