BENNINGTON — An Arlington teenager is facing arson charges after being accused of setting a wreath on fire, as well as small bits of paper at another home on Old Mill Road.
Rashawn Morse, 16, pleaded not guilty Monday in Vermont Superior Court to two felony counts of third degree arson. He was released under conditions, among them that he abide by a 24-hour curfew with exceptions for court, medical, and attorney appointments, and that he not go to Old Mill Road.
According to an affidavit by Vermont State Trooper Travis Hess, on Dec. 31 at 4:29 p.m. he spoke to a husband and wife on Old Mill Road who said they went out in the morning to discover the door to one of their vehicles was ajar, and that someone had left burnt pieces of paper around the porch, including a burnt dollar bill tucked into the screen door.
They took a photo of a shoe print left in the snow. Hess also found that one of the bits of paper had a list of names on it, among them Morse's, whom he knows from past encounters and who lives nearby.
Hess then got a complaint from two houses down about a burnt wreath. He spoke to the homeowner, who said sometime during the night the wreath was set on fire. There was some fire damage to the door as well.
Police spoke with Morse, who changed his story a number of times, first saying he had been home all night, then saying he had gone for a walk on Old Mill Road with another person, who police only identified through their initials. He was then told about the paper with his name on it, and admitted to setting the papers on fire. He denied setting the wreath on fire initially as well, but then admitted to it. He did not give a reason for doing so.
Police spoke to him on Jan. 2 in a follow-up interview, during which he said he poured gasoline on the door with the wreath and told the other person to set it on fire, which they did. They both ran away, then went to the other home where Morse lit the papers on fire.
He said he felt bad about what had happened.
If convicted, a third degree arson charge carries a one-year minimum sentence, and a maximum of three years.