BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP/FOX 17) — Authorities say three boys ages 11, 12 and 13 years old are charged with sexually assaulting two younger boys at an abandoned garage that police suspect was burned to destroy evidence. The Battle Creek Police Department said their investigation into the incident began on June 12 when they received a call about the garage fire on Capital Avenue NE and Wabash Street.
"While investigating that, it was a suspicious circumstance involving that," said Det. Sgt. Todd Elliott during a press conference at headquarters. "It was reported that some juvenile boys were in the garage and they had dropped a marijuana cigarette on an old mattress in there, which caught fire."
D/Sgt. Elliott said the boys then tried to put the fire out with what they thought was water, but turned out to be gasoline. Seven hours later that day they received another phone call.
"We got a call from a mother who reported that her 6 and 8-year-old boys had been sexually assaulted," he said. "In the course of that investigation, we’re looking to see how they tie together."
Police said the mother of the victims knew something was wrong when her sons began acting differently. So she asked them questions. And, they told her. Nine days later, three other boys from the same neighborhood were arrested.
"Right now we've got them lodged on criminal sexual conduct 1st degree," said D/Sgt. Elliott about the 11, 12, and 13 year old suspects. "The arson is a separate investigation. They're running parallel in a sense that they happened so close together."
D/Sgt. Elliott said investigators are looking into whether there are any links between the two incidents and if the fire was intentional. They're also investigating if there were other victims or suspects involved. Right now, the 6 and 8 year old are safe. Police are grateful they spoke up.
"When kids especially younger ones, when they have something traumatic happen to them -- whether it's a situation where they're beat up at school all the way up to an extreme like this -- we encourage them to talk to somebody," D/Sgt. Elliott said. "Talk to a friend, talk to a parent, a teacher, a counselor, the biggest thing on that is a trusted adult."