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Juveniles Face Criminal Charges in Fire Incident That Badly Burned Santa Barbara Boy

If two 14-year-olds meet terms of plea agreements, charges eventually will be dropped

Santa Barbara Junior High School student Jacob Keefer was badly burned in a Feb. 28 incident, and spent months being treated at the Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center Burn Unit.
Santa Barbara Junior High School student Jacob Keefer was badly burned in a Feb. 28 incident, and spent months being treated at the Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center Burn Unit. (Keefer family photo)

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office plans to file charges Monday against two 14-year-old boys who allegedly were involved in a fire incident that left a companion severely burned and with life-threatening injuries.

Jacob Keefer, a 14-year-old Santa Barbara Junior High School student, was severely burned on Feb. 28.

According to authorities, the three boys reportedly had been playing with fire in the backyard of a house in the 700 block of California Street on Santa Barbara’s Riviera. 

Firefighters responded to a home on California Street home, where the three boys reportedly had been playing with fire, according to authorities.

Jacob’s family later stated on a fundraising site established to help with medical bills that the boy “was splashed with lighter fluid that immediately set flames to the upper half of his body. This includes his waist, chest, arms, hands, face and neck.”

Firefighters responded to the scene and administered aid. The boy was rushed to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in critical condition.

An update in May reported that Jacob had returned home to Santa Barbara from treatment at the Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center Burn Unit, but that he was still in pain and may need more surgeries in the future.

The two boys — identified only as John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 in a DA’s Office statement released Friday — will face two felony counts, including arson of property and assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury.

Since the incident, District Attorney Joyce Dudley said she’s been meeting with Jacob, his family, and the charged juveniles’ attorneys and members of the Santa Barbara police and Santa Barbara fire departments.

Her office announced Friday that an agreement with all parties had been reached, and the charged juveniles will have “an opportunity to admit their culpability, contribute to our community, and learn from this tragedy.”

The statement said the details of the contract have been lined up in a pre-plea diversion agreement, and that if each juvenile fulfills all the terms and conditions of the agreement by Feb. 29, 2016, the charges against them will be dismissed.

“If either juvenile fails to complete all of the articulated terms and conditions, the case will proceed through the juvenile criminal system,” the statement said.

Dudley said she hoped the community learns from the incident and that “no other families have to suffer all of the catastrophic, lifelong consequences brought about by these crimes.”

A news conference will be held Monday to answer further questions about the case, and the juveniles are to be arraigned Sept. 3 in Santa Barbara County Juvenile Court.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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