For release on May 29, 2012
Alaleh Kianerci, Deputy District Attorney
TRACE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL ARSONIST PRISON BOUND
Almost two years after Lazarus Reavallez and another teen burned down one of San Jose's largest elementary schools, the now 18-year-old San Jose man was sentence on Monday, May 29, 2012 in Santa Clara County Superior Court to eight years in prison.
His co-defendant, 18-year-old Kliefert Guiang, who helped ignite the six-alarm Trace Elementary School fire in July of 2010, remains in custody. His next court date is June 19.
The two, who were 16 years old at the time of the arson, were not students of the school. They were both charged as adults for Aggravated Arson, a felony which carries a term of ten years to life. Under the negotiation disposition, Reavallez pleaded to a reduced felony charge, Arson of a Structure, with an enhancement which adds four years for causing damage in excess of $3.5 million.
"The defendants threatened the safety of the community, the well-being of the students and the people who live near Trace Elementary. Luckily no one was hurt," Alaleh Kianerci, the prosecutor of the case, said. "However, this fire devastated the students and teachers whose classrooms were destroyed. Many teachers lost every teaching tool they had. Ever since the fire, the children of Trace have been learning in portable class rooms, while teachers struggle to put all the pieces back together."
The deputy district attorney praised the "excellent work and collaboration" of the San Jose Fire Department Investigators, Robbery Unit of the San Jose Police Department and District Attorney's office investigators in solving the case.
On July 5, 2010, the two defendants dragged along an 11-year-old boy in Guiang's care and went to Trace Elementary school with the intention of setting it on fire. Using paper found in a recycle bin, cardboard and a cigarette lighter, the teens set two fires on separate sides of the 1,000 student school - and fled. The blaze destroyed the core of the school along with its library, and several classrooms, causing over $10 million in damage. Both teenagers admitted to starting the fire.
Officials expect to have the newly rebuilt school ready by the start of the new school year. The $14 million project was aided by donations from all over the world.