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2013-05-02

Juvies charged with Bandera Beach Club burn

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Two juveniles have been charged in connection with a fire at the Bandera Beach Club that occurred Sunday, April 21. As a policy, the Courier does not publish the names of minor suspects.

According to Bandera Marshal James "Charlie" Hicks, a 16-year-old male has been charged with arson and another 16 year old with felony criminal mischief. The blaze destroyed most of the venue that rented tubes and kayaks for use on the Medina River - prior to the ongoing devastating drought.

According to reports, buildings were destroyed and buses and kayaks sustained heavy damage.

Both juveniles confessed to starting the fire by igniting a jacket on a wooden deck of the property at 1106 Cherry Street, Hicks said in an interview. "Apparently they attempted to extinguish the fire, but it got away from them," he added. Both males will face charges in juvenile court but are not in custody at this time.

"My investigation is complete but we're still waiting for County Fire Marshal John Stith and the state fire marshal to finish their end of it," Hicks said.

In an interview, Charlotte Retief, wife of Bandera Beach Club owner, Gerhard Retief, said that approximately a year ago, what she described as "major vandalism" had occurred on the same property. According to Retief, although juveniles had confessed to the crime, they were never charged with criminal mischief. She said law enforcement officers with the Bandera County Sheriff's Office had investigated the crime.

Clearly upset because she felt the BCSO had "dropped the ball," Charlotte Retief continued, "This sort of thing has become a major problem in this county, because juveniles know there will be no consequences for anything they do."

In an interview, BCSO Chief Deputy Matt King said that the vandalism, which included breaking windows, had occurred in February 2012. Identified suspects were students at Bandera Middle School. They were interviewed by investigators with the department's Criminal Investigation Division.

King said the assigned BCSO investigator had, indeed - as Charlotte Retief claimed - relegated the case "to the back shelf and failed to follow up on it." King added, however, that the vandalism case is still active and will be pursued.

Both King and Hicks noted that the juveniles charged in the recent blaze at the Bandera Beach Club were not the same ones who perpetrated vandalism against the business last year.

Hicks also said the latest pair of firebugs was apparently not involved in a blaze that destroyed much of the Old Texas Square complex in May 2012. The complex, which sprawled across the 700 block of Main Street, was partially destroyed. It was razed and is currently awaiting development.

At the time of the Texas Square conflagration, an investigator with the state fire marshal characterized the blaze as incendiary, according to Stith. An incendiary fire was described as "one that is intentionally started when a person knows it should not be started. However, an incendiary fire is not necessarily arson."

No charges occurred with that fire because the burden of proof necessary for arrests was apparently not met.