The internet did it

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Doodle Bug

Puritan Board Freshman
Four boys arrested for church fires
Johnson County teens are charged with arson
By Lee Mueller

PAINTSVILLE - State and federal authorities arrested four Johnson County high school students late Wednesday night and charged them with arson in connection with the burning of three churches in February and March.

The students, all 17-year-old boys, appeared in Johnson County juvenile court yesterday and were taken by the sheriff's department to a juvenile detention center in Breathitt County. All were charged with second-degree arson in connection with the fires, and criminal mischief and third-degree burglary in connection with the robbery of at least one other church, according to a news release by Sheriff Bill Witten.

"It's a relief," said Kelly Caudill, pastor of Tom's Creek Freewill Baptist Church, about 5 miles from one of the burned churches. Caudill said members at his church were preparing to install a security system in response to the incidents.

Caudill was at the Johnson County Courthouse yesterday morning, but the defendants covered their heads with their coats when they left a closed hearing in the courthouse, "so I don't think anyone got a look at their faces." The identity of juveniles is kept private in criminal proceedings in Kentucky.

Two churches, the New Bethel Freewill Baptist Church at Riceville and the Sugar Grove United Baptist Church at Sitka, were burned March 27, a Saturday night. The other fire destroyed the Tom's Creek United Baptist Church at Tutor Key on Feb. 28.

Also on Feb. 28, satanic symbols were spray-painted on the floor of the Ramey Branch Church on Ky. 172. Witten said the FBI "is looking at it from the angle of 'hate crimes' to see if there's charges they can pursue."

But Michael D. Osborne, a Paintsville attorney who represents one of the juveniles, blamed the episode on unregulated Internet access, not hate or Satan.

"They're not devil worshipers or bad kids," Osborne said. "None of these children had been in any trouble."

All of the defendants are good students from good families, he said.

"There was no reason for this," he said. "One or both parents of each child is a Christian. The only common threat between them is that they spent lots of time on the Internet and had computer linkups between their computers."

What happened, Osborne said, is that "these juveniles will get on the Internet and it's almost like brainwashing them."

Osborne would not discuss what Internet content the four teens were reading. But he said of the dangers parents face in watching out for their children, unregulated access to the Internet is the most dangerous.

"They have to do something with the Internet. I mean, how can you take a kid and give him access to every evil in the world without any regulation," he said. "It's where they can go to learn how to make crystal meth, make pipe bombs -- they get into these chat rooms with God knows who ... and when you spend most of your free time exploring the taboo, things don't seem as bad."

Sheriff Witten said Kentucky State Police, federal agents and local officers executed search warrants, but declined to discuss details of the investigation, citing confidentiality of juvenile matters.

Of course the kids arent really bad.....
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