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WEST FARMINGTON Teen is sentenced for arson in fires at nine buildings



Published: Thu, July 4, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The 17-year-old said he did not set the fires; he will appeal the conviction.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- A 17-year-old boy found guilty of setting numerous fires in West Farmington last July has been sentenced to at least one year in custody of the state Department of Youth Services.

Judge Pamela Rintala sentenced Sean Stephens Wednesday during a 40-minute hearing.

The judge told Stephens that if he not does behave at the detention center, he could be held until he is 21.

Says he's innocent

Stephens, who denies setting the fires, had a two-day trial last week. The defendant chose to have Judge Rintala hear the case instead of a jury.

Judge Rintala said Wednesday she believes Stephens is guilty of the charges and convicted him of two counts of delinquency by way of aggravated arson, five counts of delinquency by way of arson and one count of criminal damaging.

Trumbull County deputy sheriffs said that in the early hours of July 21, the village was lighted by fires that were all set in a two-hour span. No one was injured. Deputies said they believe Stephens set the fires and acted alone.

Home burned

Deirdre Bailey, whose home was one of the nine structures set on fire July 21, asked the judge to give Stephens the maximum sentence.

"I lived in my home for 35 years and this was the home my husband died of cancer in and a home I always felt safe in," Bailey told the judge before sentencing. "I am now afraid to stay alone. I have now spent thousands of dollars for security equipment."

Bailey also said that she lives next door to Stephens and his family and feels she is being harassed by them.

"I considered selling my home, but then I don't think I should have to," Bailey said.

Carl Stephens, Sean's father, said after the court hearing that his family has not harassed Bailey.

"We have ignored her," Carl Stephens said. "I feel bad for her."

He noted that his son plans to appeal the conviction.

Dave Toepfer, an assistant county prosecutor, said sheriff department detectives Tony Leshnack and Rick Tackett "worked extremely hard to solve the arson cases."

Toepfer noted that detectives received information a few days after the fires occurred that Sean Stephens was seen taking a gas can from a garage early July 21.

Detectives said the fires started about 30 minutes after Sean was seen with the gas can.

sinkovich@vindy.com




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