Trial set for teen accused of Cocos fire

Trial set for teen accused of Cocos fire

By Teri Figueroa | U-T San Diego

SAN DIEGO — The teen girl accused of setting the Cocos wildfire that destroyed 36 homes in the San Marcos area in May is headed to trial in March.

The trial date was set in Juvenile Court on Wednesday, despite talks at an October court hearing that a potential plea deal might be in the works. Details of any plea deal discussions have not been made public.

Attorneys on both sides told Superior Court Judge Aaron Katz that the trial could run as long as two weeks.

The girl has pleaded not guilty to five charges accusing her of setting two fires, including the 2,000-acre blaze on May 14 that sent thousands fleeing from homes in San Marcos and neighboring Harmony Grove.

Authorities haven’t said how they linked the girl to the blaze, however they have begun calling it the Washingtonia/Cocos fire — presumably to include a fire that started the same day between two homes on nearby Washingtonia Drive, near where the girl lives.

The teen is also charged with setting an arson fire a day earlier, and letting that fire get out of control.

She was 13 years old when the back-to-back fires were set.

The Cocos fire was one of several firestorms to hit the county during an unusually hot and dry week in May. The cause of many of those fires is still under investigation, but authorities have said they don’t believe they were intentionally set.

During a previous court hearing in the Cocos case, Deputy District Attorney Shawnalyse Ochoa told a different judge that the girl’s parents can be made to pay restitution. She did not say how much restitution could be requested.

County officials have said the combined cost of fighting the fire and property damage reached roughly $12 million.

The teen — whose name is being withheld because she’s a minor — was charged in July, but the case was briefly put on hold so she could undergo a mental competency evaluation. Such evaluations are performed to determine a juvenile’s ability — or inability, due to maturity level or mental illness — to understand court proceedings.

The following month, the child was found competent to face charges.

The girl remains out of custody and subject to a court-ordered curfew that she be at home between 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

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