STERLING — The 16-year-old charged in the Prophetstown fire also was charged with arson at the age of 10 for setting a fire in a trash can in a boys' bathroom, the prosecutor said Tuesday.
Evidence also indicates the boys set three other fires in recycling bins around town that night, Whiteside County Assistant State's Attorney Carol Linkowski said at Tuesday's pretrial hearing.
"There was more than one fire set that night," Linkowski said. "I think we're just lucky none of the others took off as bad as this one did."
The 16-year-old also is on probation in Winnebago County, Wis., for misdemeanor disorderly conduct, she told Judge William McNeal.
McNeal, who said he was very concerned that the teen's criminal history includes arson, nonetheless decided in favor of a defense motion to allow the boy to return to Oshkosh, Wis., to attend high school and live with his mother and stepfather.
His mother and maternal grandmother have attended each of his court hearings since the boys were charged with setting the July 15 fire in a recycling bin that destroyed much of Prophetstown's historic downtown.
When McNeal announced his decision, the 16-year-old's mother shot her hand in the air in silent prayer. Tears flooded her eyes.
The 12-year-old, who usually lives with his mother in New York, started the Whiteside County Regional Office of Education's Safe Schools Program on Monday.
The boys are charged with arson, residential arson, and 14 counts of criminal damage to property, all felonies.
If found guilty, the older boy could be held in a juvenile correctional center until he's 21. Because he is younger than 13, the other boy cannot be committed to the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, but could be placed on probation and spend up to 30 days in a juvenile detention center.
Additional charges, although none more severe, could be pending, Linkowski said.
Police say they set fire to paper and cardboard in a recycling bin behind Cindy Jean's restaurant around 2:30 a.m.; the fire spread and destroyed eight buildings and damaged two others.
They were spending the summer with their father in Prophetstown; the younger boy still is living with his dad, while the older boy was staying with his paternal grandfather in Prophetstown.
The boy not being in school was the biggest factor in his decision to allow him to return to Wisconsin, McNeal said.
The 16-year-old previously attended school in Whiteside County, but ran into trouble there, so the Wisconsin school would be the best option, his mother said.
"I understand what my son has done is bad, and I understand that he needs to be punished. But I also understand that he needs to be in school," she said.
He will be placed on GPS monitoring with the Winnebago County Probation Department, and must report there twice a week.
The boys' next court appearance is Oct. 8.
Sauk Valley Media is not identifying the boys because they are charged as juveniles.