by Crystal Gottfried
Six Smithson Valley High School students were arrested last week in connection with a series of burglaries and arson at several area residences.
According to investigators, a slip of paper, listing the first names of three of the students, was left behind in a burglarized home at Canyon Lake and that helped police solve the multiple crimes.
Comal County Fire Marshal Lin Manford said that the case that led to the arrests was the Sept. 2 burglary of a home located in the 2700 block of Colleen Drive in which the burglars heavily vandalized the inside of the home, discharged two fire extinguishers, and filled a toilet with gasoline and set it on fire.
After police found the incriminating slip of paper, Deputy Fire Marshal Wayne Ellington took the paper to area schools, seeking information about the students’ identities. Then Comal County Sheriff Detective Rex Campbell followed up on and developed the leads.
According to a news report in the Herald-Zeitung, Campbell interviewed the victims, suspects and other witnesses, while other investigators recovered a stereo that had been stolen in a different recent burglary, as well as other stolen property, including a bathrobe, another stereo, a golf cart and a pistol.
Manford said that the investigation has resulted in clearing numerous felony and misdemeanor cases.
“This was a case of good, old-fashioned police investigation and teamwork,” he said.
The oldest of the suspects, a 17-year-old, was arrested last Wednesday and taken to Comal County Jail. He was charged with arson and first-degree burglary of a habitation to commit another felony, arson. If he is found guilty, he could face punishment of five to 99 years in state prison along with a $10,000 fine.
The five other students were detained in a Guadalupe County juvenile facility or released to their parents.
The juvenile offenders are a 15-year-old charged with two counts of burglary of a habitation and one count each of burglary of a habitation with intent to commit another felony, arson, felony criminal mischief and criminal trespass of a habitation; a 15-year-old charged with one count each of burglary of a habitation with intent to commit other felony, arson, felony criminal mischief and criminal trespass of a habitation; a 16-year-old charged with one count each of felony criminal mischief and criminal trespass; a 14-year-old charged with one count of criminal trespass of a habitation; and a 15-year-old charged with one count of criminal trespass of a habitation.
The charges of arson and burglary of a habitation are second-degree felonies that could be punishable by two to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The criminal mischief between $1,500 and $20,000 charge is a felony that could be punishable by six months to two years in state prison.