SIREN––A 10 year-old has been referred to Social Services with charges of arson to a building, obstructing an officer and harboring or aiding felons for the destruction of evidence. The possible charges stem from a fire at the Siren Trailer Park on the night of Jan. 10.
Burnett County Dispatch paged the Siren Fire Department for a home that was fully engulfed in flames at the Siren Trailer Park at 8:22 p.m. Siren Police Sergeant Aaron Bentley was on duty when he heard the call.
Bentley arrived on the scene and saw everyone staying at the trailer had been safely evacuated. He secured the scene and made initial contact with Brett Frank Jr., who was living in the home belonging to Kari Eberley and Todd Plaster.
Frank said he was putting the kids to bed when he began smelling what he believed to be burnt matches. He went into the front bedroom, where he thought it was coming from then asked the oldest child about the smell. The child said it was coming from outside.
There was a broken window in the bedroom and Frank put his head near it to see if he could decipher whether it was coming from inside or not. He then went back to the living room where he was folding laundry.
Moments later out of the corner of his eye he saw a light. He quickly realized it was not a light but a fire. He went to the bedroom and saw the curtains were fully inflamed.
He began yelling that everyone needed to get out of the house. After evacuating the four children he went back in for his dog and a bag of clothes. By this time the trailer was so engulfed in flames and smoke that he had to crawl out.
Once he was out, he took the children to a neighbor’s house.
Frank told officers his dad was an electrician and he knew the difference between the smell of burnt matches and electrical wiring burning.
When Plaster arrived at the scene he spoke with Bentley and explained he believed the fire was electrical. Bentley asked the oldest child about having matches in the house and the child said he did not.
Bentley spoke with Frank later that night when he said that Plaster tried to convince him to change his story because he was fearful of losing custody of his kids.
Siren Chief of Police Chris Sybers has been involved with many arson cases and has taken classes on investigated them. He arrived at the scene he noticed that the fire seemed to originate in the bedroom and was not electrical.
The day after the fire, Siren Police Officer Trevor Thiex interviewed the oldest child with Burnett County Social Service workers in the room.
He stated before the interview started, “I did not start the fire. I can’t start a fire that big.”
The child claimed he had sustained a small burn on his hand from attempting to open a doorknob. At first he said he was in the kitchen getting a drink and again said he did not have any matches at the house.
He later admitted to playing with a lighter and burning sage in the trailer under his bed. Ash from the sage got onto a teddy bear and that is what lead to the trailer becoming engulfed in flames and smoke.
The child hid the lighter in his father’s bedroom and put the remaining sage in a dumpster next to the trailer. He could face felony criminal charges.
Parents of children
Sybers interviewed Plaster the next day and Plaster said the fire had to be electrical. He cited that he had been having issues with two vacuum cleaners.
Plaster added there was no way the child started the fire.
At this point Sybers realized that Plaster and the children were in contact with Eberley breaking two different no-contact restraining order between Plaster and Eberley and Eberley and the children. Plaster was arrested and booked into the Burnett County Jail.
After he was released Plaster began sending messages to Sybers saying that Frank had started the fire. He also sent messages and made calls to the Siren Police Department. He continued to make false statements to residents about Frank. The report states if this continues, Plaster would be charged with harassing a witness.
Eberley was charged with possession of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia and disorderly conduct on Dec. 8, 2017, in Burnett County.
Later in December she was charged with four counts of child neglect after one of the children told Siren Elementary Principal, Carrie Herman, that their mother was in jail and that no one would be home to watch them.
She was arrested on Dec. 19, 2017, for possession of methamphetamine and felony bail jumping in Washburn County. She was in Washburn County jail the night of the fire.
The Burnett County Social Services will review the case and decide on the charges.