SAN DIEGO – A judge on Tuesday found a 14-year-old girl guilty of arson for igniting a branch in her backyard that caused last year's devastating wildfire in San Diego County.
Judge Howard Shore found the girl was guilty of multiple felony counts of arson and one misdemeanor count of unlawfully allowing a fire to escape one's control, said Steve Walker of the San Diego County District Attorney's office. Her attorney, Ryan McGlinn, did not immediately return a message for comment.
During the two-week trial, prosecutors argued that the girl ignited branches amid a spate of wildfires in the county and laughed about it when she told her sister. An ember traveled nearly a half-mile and ignited the Cocos Fire that destroyed 36 homes, they said.
A hearing to decide her punishment will be scheduled next month. It wasn't immediately known what penalty she might face.
Mitizi McKinney, whose apartment burned in the Cocos Fire, said it was a sad outcome for all.
"Like the judge says, there's no winners in this," McKinney told KNSD-TV, outside the courtroom. "It's a sad situation. But I feel like justice was definitely served today. The evidence was overwhelming that she started the fire that burned all the homes down."
Restitution for victims is possible, and the parents of the girl could be responsible, though only to a limited dollar amount, according to KSND-TV.
The girl told investigators she "didn't want to kill anybody" — only to "see what would happen" when she set the first of two fires in her backyard, according to an audio tape played in court on Monday.