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Trial set for older boy accused in Prophetstown fire

12-year-old already pleaded guilty, sentenced to 5 years of probation

STERLING – An April trial date has been set for the 16-year-old boy accused, along with his half-brother, of setting a fire that burned down much of downtown Prophetstown in July.

For now, though, both sides are reportedly working on negotiating a plea deal.

The 16-year-old faces 17 counts of criminal damage to property, one count of residential arson, and one count of arson – all felonies. The 12-year-old half-brother pleaded guilty to one count of arson on Jan. 21 as part of a plea agreement. The rest of his charges were dropped.

The trial of the older boy is set to begin April 8 in Sterling.

The 12-year-old was sentenced to 5 years of probation, the maximum probation sentence allowed.

Assistant State’s Attorney Carol Linkowski has said that both boys were interviewed after the fire by state police and an arson investigator, and that the boys indicated they had sneaked out of their father’s house – with a cigarette lighter.

She said they first set a fire in a recycling bin by the library, which they watched burn out, before starting the fire behind Cindy Jean’s Restaurant. The boys took off their shirts and added them to the fire to increase the size of the flames, Linkowski said.

Authorities say it was the fire behind the restaurant that spread and destroyed eight buildings, damaged two others, and left more than half a dozen people homeless.

The fire erupted around 2:30 a.m. in the 300 block of Washington Street, which is the town’s main street and the heart of its historic downtown business district.

The buildings were about 150 years old and housed business such as D’s Variety Store, Twisted Scissors salon, Kim’s Monograms, and the town’s historical society.

The 16-year-old, who lives in Oshkosh, Wis., will next appear in court on March 4.

Sauk Valley Media is not identifying the boys because they are charged as juveniles.

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