A San Marcos teenager admitted to starting fires with a lighter the week a devastating wildfire swept across San Diego’s North County according to her mother’s testimony in court Friday.
The defendant’s mother said she and her daughter were crying when the now-14 year old made the statement in an interview with sheriff's department investigators.
It is NBC 7’s policy not to identify juvenile defendants. We are not identifying family members to conceal the defendant’s identity.
Prosecutors claim the teenage girl set two fires in her family’s backyard on May 13 and May 14. One of those fires, prosecutors say, left behind an ember that floated away to cause the Cocos Fire.
Under cross-examination, the mother said she did not believe her daughter could have set the Cocos Fire that occurred on May 14.
That fire prompted the evacuation of a large area of San Marcos and ultimately destroyed 36 homes and caused $10.4 million in damage.
The girl faces four felony charges, including two counts of arson of an inhabited structure or property in which multiple structures were burned and two counts of arson of a structure or forest land in a reckless manner. She also faces a misdemeanor of unlawfully allowing a fire to escape from one’s control.
Previous testimony from a sister alleged that the defendant laughed about setting the fires.
A neighbor also told the court what happened when the fire broke out in the girl's backyard.
Defense attorneys argued earlier this week that a so-called "phantom ember" from the girl's backyard could not have traveled the distance prosecutors have alleged.
Prosecutors told NBC 7 the family rejected a plea agreement offer in the weeks before trial began.
The girl's mother testified Friday that she never considered her daughter could be the person responsible for the fires.
“There was no reason for us to even think that one of the children did that,” the defendant’s mother testified.
Download the free NBC 7 mobile app to stay updated on trial developments.