Judges orders mental evaluation for teen charged in Middletown church fire

Posted at 6:57 PM, Feb 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-08 18:57:40-05

HAMILTON, Ohio -- A Butler County judge ordered a psychiatric evaluation for the teen accused of starting a fire that gutted a Middletown church.

The fire did more than $400,000 in damage to the Tytus Avenue First Church of God, officials said.

That teen accused of starting the fire appeared in court Wednesday morning. The attorney for the teen asked for his client's competency and mental status at the time of the fire to be evaluated by mental health professionals.

The teen was allowed a brief moment with his family before leaving court. Then his friend was brought in. That second teen is charged with failure to report a crime and receiving stolen property. Police say he accepted a stolen computer taken from the church.

The teen charged with arson will be back in court in a month, as will his friend. Police said they would be tried separately because the friend had nothing to do with the arson.

Church's day care continues

More than 40 children who attended day care at church have been going to a temporary location at Briele Church. While they're physically away from their church, the fire is still with them psychologically. In addition to returning to their play, the children are being given a chance to talk about the fire.

"They're drawing pictures and talking about it on a daily basis," day care director Beth Rettich said.

Even the adults are working through their feelings of anger.

"You just kind of go back and forth about it, and you understand he's had a rough life from what we've heard," Rettich said.