WOODBURY, N.J. (AP) — A 15-year-old girl charged with setting her home ablaze and trying to kill family members sleeping inside had moved back in with her mother only days before, relatives said Tuesday.
The mother and stepfather, both corrections officers, wanted her to start 10th grade in rural Clayton, but she wanted to return to her father's house near Philadelphia, they said.
"She doesn't like being in that house," said cousin Edna Chavez, 26, of Glassboro. Nonetheless, Chavez said she hadn't thought the tension amounted to much more than "typical teenage" behavior.
About two dozen relatives from both sides of the family turned out for a juvenile detention hearing Tuesday to support the girl, whom they described as a favorite niece and good student. Some knew of the brewing dispute but were stunned to hear news of the fire early Saturday, when gasoline poured in the upstairs hallway burst into flames inside the new-model house.
Six people were injured, including the mother, stepfather, a visiting uncle, the teen and two other children.
Defense lawyer Richard Josselson called his client "very distraught (and) very upset about what happened."
"This is a very good and just a very sweet girl," Josselson said Tuesday, after a Gloucester County judge detained his client while she undergoes a mental health evaluation. "She's an honor student and has never been in trouble before."
The Associated Press is not naming the girl because she is a juvenile. She is charged with two counts of aggravated arson and six counts of attempted murder. Prosecutors have not yet decided whether to seek to try her as an adult.
The mother has been released from a burn center where she was treated for smoke inhalation, while the other victims have been released or are recovering, authorities said.
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