Judge accepts youth's guilty plea in fire

A provincial court judge has delayed sentencing for a teenager who admitted he started a fatal fire last November on Springdale Street in St. John's.
A judge has accepted a troubled teenager's plea in boarding house fire, reports Glenn Payette 1:40

A provincial court judge said he needs more time to make a decision on the sentencing of a teenager who admitted to starting a fatal fire last November on Springdale Street in St. John's.

In a St. John's courtroom on Wednesday afternoon, the Crown and defence asked that the youth — who was 16 at the time of the fire and cannot be identified because of his age — get two years in custody, as well as one year under community supervision.

The sentence would come under what is known as an Intensive Rehabilitation and Custody Order.

But Judge Colin Flynn said he wants a little more time before deciding if he'll accept the joint sentencing submission.

The court will reconvene on Thursday.

Carlos Escobar Medina, 54, died when he was unable to escape a burning building on Springdale Street last November. (CBC)

The youth had already pled guilty to charges of manslaughter, arson and three charges of recklessly endangering human life.

An agreed statement of facts presented to the court on Monday outlined the events of that night.

Upset over being rejected by a girl at a party, the teen returned to the rooming house where he lived with several older men. Intoxicated and distressed, he doused his mattress with lighter fluid and set it on fire.

Another rooming house resident, Carlos Escobar Medina, 54, was killed when he was unable to escape the burning building.

A victim impact statement written by Escobar's cousin, Herbert Ivan Escobar, stated Carlos had moved to St. John's to be closer to family members. Both men had immigrated to Canada from El Salvador.

"We miss him big time," said Herbert Escobar, speaking outside the courtroom. "It was a tremendous shock to lose him that way, the way we lost him."

He says his cousin was a kind and gentle man.

"He was a very friendly person. He didn't like any verbal confrontation. He tried to always live in peace."

Escobar's brother, Edin Walberto Escobar, who lives in El Salvador, also submitted a victim impact statement, in which he said he was traumatized by the tragedy.

The youth admitted to the crime when he called 911, and also told a police officer on the scene of the blaze that he had done it.

The RNC officer said that when he approached the boy and put his hand on his shoulder, the teen responded, "I started the fire and Carlos is dead."

The crown initially wanted to sentence the 17-year-old as an adult, but has since withdrawn that application.