Teen charged with arson denied bail reduction
Devon Tatro, probable cause hearing (Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
PETERBOROUGH —Devon Tatro, the 18-year-old Peterborough man facing charges of arson and reckless conduct after he allegedly set fire to the Union Street apartment where he lives, was returned to jail on Tuesday after a judge declined to reduce his bail.
At a probable cause hearing in Eighth Circuit Court in Jaffrey, Judge L. Phillips Runyon III turned down a request from Tatro’s attorney, Jeff Odland of the Manchester Public Defender’s office, to reduce the bail amount from $50,000 cash to $2,000 cash. Odland said in court that the bail reduction would allow Tatro’s father to get him out of jail and into a program for treatment of mental health issues.
Tatro was arrested at the scene following a Nov. 19 fire that damaged the bathroom of the Rockbrook Apartments unit where he lived with his father, Eugene Tatro. State Fire Marshal/Investigator Keith Rodenhiser, in an affidavit filed when Tatro was arraigned last week, wrote that the teen had admitted setting the fire after becoming mad following a phone call from his mother, who does not live at the Union Street address. Tatro also disabled two hard-wired smoke detectors in the bathroom and placed them in a kitchen drawer, according to the affidavit, because he didn’t want the fire to be detected quickly.
“He is a very young man who has been dealing with significant mental illness for much of his young life,” Odlund said of Tatro at the hearing. “He’s been struggling for a decade. His family feels he needs in-patient care. If bail is posted, his father intends to have him committed by taking him to an emergency room for admission to a state hospital.”
Odlund said Tatro had received “a very minimal level” of mental health service during the several days he had been at the Valley Street Jail in Manchester following his arrest.
Assistant County Attorney Lisa Drescher opposed any reduction in bail. She said Tatro has extreme anger issues and should not be released from jail.
“He placed not only himself and his father, but also other residents, in danger,” Drescher said. “This defendant poses a significant risk to the community.”
She said there was no firm plan in place for getting mental health treatment for Tatro and that concerns about lack of treatment at Valley Street Jail were “speculative.”
“We have no reason to believe he isn’t getting treatment,” Drescher said.
When questioned by Runyon, Drescher said she would have no objection if a plan to transfer Tatro to a secure detention unit could be arranged.
Runyon ordered the bail to remain at $50,000 cash, with the condition that if Tatro is released after payment of that amount and is not at a secure facility for mental health treatment, he would have to be in the custody of his father at all times, have no contact with his mother and not enter the premises of Rockbrook Apartments. Runyon ordered that bail be converted to $2,000 cash and $48,000 personal recognizance when Tatro enters a secure detention unit of a mental health facility.
Tatro’s case will be transferred to Hillsborough County Superior Court North, as both counts against him are felony level charges. No court date has been set for his next appearance.
Outside the courtroom before the hearing, Tatro’s father said his son, who graduated early from ConVal High School last April, has never had legal problems before. “I’m hoping he’ll be hospitalized, in all honesty,” Gene Tatro said. “He’s been in psychological care since he was five years old.”
Tatro said his son was supposed to have been with his mother, from whom Tatro is separated, on the afternoon of the fire. “If I’d been there, the fire never would have taken place,” he said.
Tatro said neighbors have been supportive, with one woman giving him a hug after the fire and saying “I’m so sorry for you.” But the Tatros have been served an eviction notice, he said, and he will have to leave his apartment. Asked where he would be living, he replied, “I have no idea.”
Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.