POCATELLO — While Lorraine Bowen was on a Utah skiing vacation, police said three children broke into her home to wreak havoc, later attempting to burn her house down to cover their tracks.
The children — ages 9, 12 and 13 — reportedly caused between $50,000 and $80,000 in damage to Bowen’s three-bedroom home on Jane Street. They have all been charged in juvenile court with second-degree arson and malicious destruction of property for allegedly thoroughly vandalizing the home and setting the master bedroom on fire.
Bowen declined to comment, based on advice from her attorney, but her twin sister, Denise Murdock, confirmed two of the children live in the neighborhood. She said her sister had paid them generously to shovel snow from her driveway and had bought them Christmas presents.
“I’m upset about this whole thing,” Murdock said. “My sister has worked hard all her life to have nice things.”
The police report describes how at least two of the children confessed, at the encouragement of their parents. According to the police report, the children said they entered the home at least 10 times on April 6 and April 7. A friend of Bowen’s who had access to the home ultimately reported the arson and extensive vandalism April 13. When authorities arrived, the bedroom fire was already out and there were no hot spots remaining.
Police said one of the children reportedly expressed concerns to the others that things had gotten out of hand in the home amid the vandalism spree, and it was his idea to “burn down the house to get rid of the evidence.”
Two of the children had displayed past “fascinations with fire,” according to a legal guardian of one of the children quoted in the police report.
Police said they found a hole in a bedroom mattress where the fire apparently originated. The flames spread to a polyurethane pillow and then to a headboard, before reaching the curtains and ceiling.
“The blades on the rotary ceiling fan had melted and began to sag downward by the weight of gravity,” the police report reads.
An investigating officer found it strange to find food in the bedroom, including an empty bottle of maple syrup that had been emptied onto the floor and scorched in the heat. Based on an analysis of the smoke and heat damage, police concluded the fire put itself out due to lack of oxygen.
Bowen also found ashes in the garage from where the children allegedly attempted to start a second fire that didn’t spread.
“It’s a lot of smoke damage. That whole bedroom was gutted,” said Chuck Kline, who was at the home Thursday working for the local cleanup and restoration company SERVPRO. “We’re having to scrub all of the walls. I mean, it was pitch black.”
The children allegedly entered the garage by removing the frame of Bowen’s dog door. The door from the garage to the kitchen was bolted shut, so they smashed in a basement window to gain entry, according to the police report.
Murdock said carpeting had to be removed due to heavy urine and paint damage. According to the police report, there was evidence that the children had attempted to clean up some of their mess, including foam discharged from a fire extinguisher. Paint was splattered throughout the house. A knife was found beside the flat-screen TV, which had apparently been stabbed and coated with paint.
The microwave had exploded. Police said dishware and lamps were shattered.
Murdock said there are marks in the walls from where the alleged intruders apparently threw knives. Her leather furniture was destroyed. A $1,500 computer was covered in paint, with a damaged screen. The scanner and printer were also trashed.
Several fifths of alcohol from the home were consumed, and some of the bottles were dumped down the chimney.
Much of her food and cans of soda were also consumed, and her refrigerator door was Gorilla Glued shut.
“They were having a party in here pretty much,” Murdock said.
Murdock said her sister was deeply saddened by the incident. She said parents of the neighborhood children also wept and apologized when they came over to survey the damage. She said her sister is still awaiting an apology from the children.
Murdock believes she’ll have difficulty ever fully trusting others following her sister’s experience.
“No matter if your doors are locked, they can bust your window,” Murdock said. “Security systems would be a good thing.”
Murdock said her sister’s insurance is covering the damage and will seek reimbursement through policies held by the children’s parents or guardians.
“These kids need to be held accountable for what they did, and they’re still running at large,” Murdock said.