Five most memorable kids-in-trouble stories

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Number 3: Hot stuff

As our Alan Prendergast reported last year, Jacob Christenson of Parker was just shy of his eleventh birthday when he lit a piece of paper on fire at the encouragement of an older boy.

According to Jacob, "It burned him, and he threw it into the bush. And I tried to get it out, and I got burned. Then we started throwing rocks at it, trying to put it out."

They didn't succeed. "It started catching on the center bush," Jacob recalled. "Then it lit the first bush. And it went to the third and fourth and then to the house" -- a reference to a pair of townhomes that were soon engaged in flame. "It just happened. We both started running, and we were yelling for help. Somebody saw the fire and called the cops, and the fire department people came up. I'd never seen anything like it except on the news."

The resulting damage was estimated at $195,000. But considerably more startling than this figure was the subsequent action of the Arapahoe County District Attorney's office, headed by Carol Chambers. Jacob and the boy were formally charged in juvenile court with second-degree arson.

"It was a bad mistake, but second-degree arson?" asked Tina Christenson, Jacob's mom. "That's pretty major."

After the case generated a rush of publicity, Jacob was reportedly placed in a diversion program that included counseling and a work component intended to help him pay restitution estimated at up to $23,000.

Page down to continue reading about our five most memorable kids-in-trouble stories.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts