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Juvenile charges or worse for New Jersey teen accused of arson?

A mental health evaluation has been ordered for a 15-year-old girl from New Jersey charged in connection to a fire that was set in her home while her family slept. Described as a sweet girl and good student, the teenager faces serious charges that may extend beyond juvenile charges. So far, she has been charged with six counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated arson. Her first court appearance was in a juvenile court.

In the house with the girl when the fire broke out were her mother and stepfather, her uncle and cousin, and two younger siblings. All but a 6-year-old brother were treated at a local hospital with minor injuries. The girl accused of setting the fire was also reportedly injured. The outside of the home sustained minor damage, while the inside suffered more significantly. The extent of the damage has not been disclosed.

According to authorities, the fire was the result of gas being ignited on the second floor of the home while the family slept. The teenage girl was very upset following the fire, authorities say. There were few details given about why authorities suspect that this girl started the blaze. It is known that she was unhappy living in the home, and wanted to return to live with her father, but reports indicate that she had remained out of trouble and on the honor roll. She had a strong support system as she made her first appearance in court, with nearly 20 relatives being present outside the courtroom.

Whenever juveniles face charges of a crime, few details may be released pending an investigation and court appearances. As a juvenile, there are certain rights that must be upheld, including the right to a defense. A strong defense examines all areas of the juvenile charges and any evidence that may be present. The mental health evaluation ordered for this New Jersey juvenile will show only one aspect of the case that may be a factor in this incident. As the case moves forward, this teenager, her representation, and her family will likely seek to avoid the harshest of consequences, and may opt for any alternatives that will grant her any help that she may need to continue living in a productive manner.

Source: Newser.com, "Lawyer: NJ girl charged with trying to kill family in fire to undergo mental health evaluation," Maryclaire Dale, Aug. 21, 2012

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