Prophetstown boys charged with arson return to court

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The two brothers charged with setting a fire that destroyed an entire city block on Prophetstown's Main Street made a quick appearance in front of a Whiteside County juvenile court judge Tuesday, and could face two very different punishments if convicted in the case.

Police say the two boys, ages 12 and 16, admitted to lighting a recycling bin filled with trash on fire in downtown Prophetstown after sneaking out of their father's house. Both are now charged with felony arson. The two share the same father, but different mothers, and were visiting their dad for the summer.

In court, the judge stated that the 12-year old, by law "cannot be committed to an Illinois juvenile prison". Instead, the boy would serve probation and potentially serve up to 30 days in a juvenile detention facility.

The 16 year -old could be sentenced to a juvenile prison up until the age of 21, if he's convicted at trial or pleads guilty. Prosecutors today stated in court that there could be more charges filed.

Meanwhile, one local business owner says justice would be served if the boys started pitching in with some kind of clean-up or public service work.

"I think they should clean up right now, spend the summer cleaning up", said hair salon owner Elisabeth Woolums, who works two businesses away from the devastation.

"Putting a 16 year old in prison will only turn them into a criminal. Make them work. Maybe they can see the damage they did", she said.

Meanwhile, a first installment and a portion of the thousands of dollars donated to help out victims and rebuilding was given away Tuesday morning, ironically, around the time the boys appeared in court.

"We distributed some of the money this morning, it's in their hands, and they were very happy. Some in tears", said Eileen Detra, Executive Director of Prophetstown Mainstreet.

Detra declined to say how much money has been donated through the fund set up at Farmers National Bank in Prophetstown. She said the money right now will go toward helping victims who lived and worked in the destroyed buildings get back on their feet.

Some of the money will go toward clean-up, and possibly re-building.

Prophetstown native Linda Moretz now lives in Connecticut, but is visiting relatives and was jolted by a walk down memory lane past the burned out buildings on Main Street.

"The town will never be the same. Never. It is so sad, I can't imagine what they were thinking. I don't think they realized they were going to do that much damage", Moretz said.

"Fortunately, nobody was killed. And that, is truly a miracle."