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Teen Ordered to Pay $1.9 Million for Church Arson Fire

Teen Ordered to Pay $1.9 Million for Church Arson Fire



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A judge has ordered a 16-year-old girl to pay $1.9 million in restitution for setting an arson fire in a church meeting house.

In April, Christina Bell admitted to setting the fire to the building owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church is in Salt Lake City's Sugar House neighborhood.

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The crimes were originally alleged in juvenile court, but Bell was certified into adult court to face multiple felony and misdemeanor charges. In a deal with prosecutors, she pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree felony arson.

On Friday, Third District Court Judge Deno Himonas sentenced Bell to five years-to-life in prison, but suspended the sentence and ordered restitution payments and 36 months of supervised probation.

"That night was the one night I'd like to take back," Bell said in an apology to Himonas. "I'd just like to do anything I can do to fix it."

In November 2006, Bell and Michael Aaron Ferguson, 19, used a baseball bat to break the church's glass doors and enter the building. They vandalized parts of the interior with graffiti and then tossed a container of gasoline inside and set the building on fire.

A police report says Bell had told Ferguson she wanted to burn something.

Residents living next to the church caught the teens as they exited the church and held them until police arrived.

Ferguson was charged separately. He pleaded guilty to second-degree felony arson as part of a plea agreement. Judge Robert Hilder sentenced Ferguson to a prison term of one-to-15 years, but suspended the sentence for probation and unspecified restitution.

Himonas also ordered Bell to spend 90 days on house arrest, serve 200 hours of community service and complete her high school education.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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