A 17-year-old boy has been charged with first-degree arson for allegedly starting a fire in a high school restroom Monday.
During Derek Paul’s initial court appearance Wednesday afternoon, retired Circuit Court Judge William S. Edwards set his bond at $25,000, cash only.
Deputy County Attorney Steve McManamen recommended the $25,000 cash-only bond, citing the risk the teen poses to the community. McManamen also recommended the case not be moved to juvenile court, even though Paul is 17 years old.
Paul wore a green jumpsuit and was in handcuffs as he answered questions from Edwards. Paul’s mother watched from the gallery.
Paul has no attorney yet, but he will apply for a public defender.
A fire alarm at Thunder Basin High School went off shortly before 4 p.m. Monday. Paul, a student at the school, was arrested on suspicion of first-degree arson that evening.
The fire was started in the handicap stall of a second-floor men’s restroom.
Two janitors tried to put the fire out with a fire extinguisher but were unsuccessful. They were both checked by EMS for smoke inhalation.
The Campbell County Fire Department arrived and put out the fire and spent several hours clearing smoke from the bathroom and hallways. The entire bathroom sustained heavy smoke damage. Both toilet paper rolls and the plastic toilet paper container were completely burned.
Surveillance footage showed a student, later identified as Paul, with a backpack entering the bathroom at 3:29 p.m. He left the bathroom nine minutes later. Other than a janitor who walked out, no one else was seen going into or coming out of the bathroom. At 3:46, smoke was seen billowing out of the bathroom door.
School staff said Paul had thrown a temper tantrum earlier that day when he was sent to detention, according to court documents.
One of the janitors, Jose Juarez, was in the restroom when Paul came in. Juarez said the boy went straight to the sink and washed his hands. When Juarez left the bathroom, he saw Paul walk into the handicap stall, which he found “to be suspicious,” according to the affidavit of probable cause.
Paul’s mom told police that he was in the school library at the time of the fire and claimed her son was wrongfully accused of starting the fire.
In a phone conversation with police, the boy said he went from his class to his history teacher’s room, then to the library. After that, he got his jacket from his locker, went downstairs and left the school.
Police Officer Julianne Witham asked Paul at what point he went to the bathroom. He was silent for eight seconds, then claimed to be getting another call. Witham asked him again, and after 10 seconds he said he didn’t know.
Witham told him that he was upstairs when he went to the bathroom, and he agreed.
Paul denied lighting the toilet paper on fire, but admitted he was the only person in the bathroom once the janitor left and agreed that there was no fire when he entered the bathroom, according to the affidavit.
He refused to tell officers where he was and hung up, but his mom called and said he’d agreed to meet with them at his home. Before he arrived, police saw his car traveling west on Interstate 90 and pulled him over. Witham then arrested Paul at about 7 p.m. Monday on suspicion of first-degree arson.
In Wyoming, that crime carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $20,000.