Kahului School arson investigation closed

Yellow evidence tape surrounds a gutted F building at Kahului Elementary School on Nov. 25, a day after a fire burned the school’s four-classroom wing and two portable classrooms. Police say the case is now closed after identifying two juvenile suspects, one of whom has been charged. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The Maui News

Police have closed an arson investigation into a fire that burned Kahului Elementary School classrooms, after identifying a 17-year-old Oahu boy as a second juvenile suspect in the case.

A police detective and juvenile investigators went to the Kapolei Police Station on Oahu to meet with the boy and his mother last month, Assistant Chief Victor Ramos said at a Maui Police Commission meeting Wednesday at the University of Hawaii Maui College.

“He confessed to everything,” Ramos said. “The case has been closed.”

Ramos said it was “the only case, to my knowledge, where a fire of this magnitude has been solved.”

“It was just a good job,” Ramos said.

Damage was estimated at $1.2 million from the fire, which was reported at 9:33 p.m. Nov. 24. Firefighters brought the blaze under control by 11 p.m. and extinguished it by 12:50 a.m. Nov. 25.

The school’s four-classroom F building and two portable classrooms were burned and waterlines were damaged by the fire. The burned classrooms housed 2nd-, 3rd- and 4th-grade students.

Police and fire investigators immediately suspected arson.

While police detectives went to the scene during the initial investigation, police juvenile investigators and school resource officers became involved in the investigation because of their ties to youths, Ramos said. Evidence was recovered at the scene, with police evidence specialists and a polygraph examiner also working on the investigation.

In December, police arrested a 17-year-old Kahului boy and charged him with two counts of first-degree arson, three counts of second-degree burglary, attempted second-degree burglary and two counts of fourth-degree criminal property damage.

Police said a welcome sign at the school was damaged, as were light fixtures, louvers and other property in classrooms.

The Kahului boy was taken to Family Court and was initially ordered to be transferred to the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility on Oahu, police said. He was later released and remains under Family Court jurisdiction while proceedings are pending.

The Oahu boy had been visiting on Maui at the time of the fire, police said.

The case has been forwarded to the prosecutor’s office for review, Ramos said.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper?


Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today