Teens charged in rash of barn fires

WOODSTOCK – Two Crystal Lake 17-year-olds have been charged with arson in five barn fires in rural McHenry County.

Joseph Gerdes, 868 Coventry Lane, and Andrew Wiegand, 1472 Bridgedale Road, both were charged as adults with arson and criminal damage to property, both felonies. The teens also were charged with criminal trespassing to property, a Class A misdemeanor.

The fires occurred over more than two months and caused more than $1 million in property damage, authorities said.

“We were lucky to catch these guys when we did, before there were any more [fires],” Undersheriff Andy Zinke said.

Since the end of May, the sheriff’s office has responded to fires involving hay barns in rural Woodstock, Marengo and Harvard.

Authorities say they have linked the teens to five fires:

• June 29, 10:36 p.m., in the 13900 block of Harmony Road, Huntley.

• July 3, 9:59 p.m., in the 11800 block of Pleasant Valley Road, Lakewood.

• July 10, 10:06 p.m., the 13900 block of Pleasant Valley Road, Woodstock.

• July 23, 11:25 a.m., in the 22500 block of River Road, Marengo.

• July 24, 9:20 p.m., in 9800 block of Lucas Road, Crystal Lake.

There have been similar barn fires in Kane and Boone counties, that remain under investigation by authorities there, Zinke said. The teens have not been linked to those blazes, he said.

An anonymous tipster identified Gerdes and Wiegand, who were interviewed Friday. The pair admitted involvement in the fires, authorities said.

Each teen’s bond was set at $50,000. Wiegand remains in the McHenry County Jail. Gerdes posted $5,000 bail Saturday and was released.

Authorities said the boys also were charged by Crystal Lake Police with five counts of tampering with a fire hydrant, a Class B misdemeanor.

“Crystal Lake investigators were able to link the two juveniles to five separate acts of disorderly conduct [on June 26] on Bedford Drive and Sutherland Drive, where five city fire hydrants were opened in city neighborhoods,” said Mike Brichetto, commander of investigations with the Crystal Lake Police Department.

The teens also are believed to be linked to trash set ablaze in Crystal Lake on June 12, Brichetto said. Those fires involved a mattress in the 1300 block Loch Lomond Drive and a couch in the 1400 block of Candlewood Drive that were put out for trash collection, he said.

Neither teenager has a criminal history. They are scheduled to appear Wednesday in McHenry County Court.

The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office was assisted in the investigation by a number of local police and fire departments, the Illinois State Fire Marshal and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

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