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14-year-old arson suspect may be tried as an adult

by Troy Graham


(July 17) Under a 1997 law, a circuit court judge may have no other choice but to try a 14-year-old Meadowbrook boy charged with arson and murder as an adult, said Harrison County Prosecuting Attorney Ed Matko.

Police allege T.J. Jeffress set two fires on Broadway Avenue early Sunday morning, one of which killed 79-year-old Kenneth L. Carder. Jeffress has been charged with one count of first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree arson and two counts of burglary.

The new law says that anyone over the age of 14 "shall" be tried as an adult for several crimes, including murder and first-degree arson, officials said.

"I'm not sure there's much discretion there as far as transferring to adult court as long as probable cause is established," Matko said.

Jeffress is scheduled to appear in magistrate court for a preliminary hearing on Monday, Matko said. The hearing to determine whether the boy will be tried as an adult or a juvenile is scheduled for August 17, he said. Probable cause will most likely be discussed at both hearing, Matko said.

Police allege Jeffress broke into a trailer and an apartment on Broadway Avenue and burned the homes to conceal the robberies. Clarksburg Fire Inspector Bernie Fazzini said Jeffress allegedly started the fires by lighting the couches in each home with clothes and rags.

No one was at either home, but Carder, who died of smoke inhalation, lived in the upstairs apartment where one of the fires was set.

Police Lt. John Walker said Jeffress knew both Artie Mayse and Bob Davis, who lived in the two homes he allegedly torched, as well as Carder.

A neighbor in Broadway, who refused to give her name, said Jeffress lived most of his life there, including several years in an apartment above Tuccillo's Pizza on Broadway Avenue.

Jeffress, a Washington Irving Middle School student, lived there with his mother, Susie Cheuvront, and his father, Timothy Jeffress, she said.

"He knows all the kids around here," the woman said. "It's a shame. The boy's had a hard life."

The father is currently in federal prison. He was sentenced in January to more than 12 years for distribution of cocaine, according to records at the federal probation office.

The family moved to Meadowbrook two months ago, said their landlord, Katherine Minnet. Minnet said the family was quiet and she was "shocked" to hear the news of the arrest.

Cheuvront refused to give an interview Thursday.

"I don't want to talk," she said. "I just want to be left alone."

However, her sister, Joanne Bumgardner, defended Jeffress.

"T.J. was a good kid," she said. "He didn't do this."

Lt. Walker said Jeffress acted alone and no more arrests are expected.