Judge finds probable cause that teen intentionally set fire - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Judge finds probable cause that teen intentionally set deadly fire

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Gwendolyn Wallace died in a fire that investigators said was set by her son. Gwendolyn Wallace died in a fire that investigators said was set by her son.
Early reports in April indicated that Wallace's husband had already left for work and that her son had gone for a walk. Early reports in April indicated that Wallace's husband had already left for work and that her son had gone for a walk.
MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - The 14-year-old who claims responsibility for a fire that killed his mother broke down in tears in the courtroom Wednesday. But the judge did not decide if the teen will go to adult court or stay in the juvenile system.

Gwendolyn Wallace died in a fire that investigators said was set by her son. According to investigators, the teen pulled the smoke detector off the wall and set the stairs on fire to trap his mother.

Early reports in April indicated that Wallace's husband had already left for work and that her son had gone for a walk.

The 14-year-old admitted to detectives that he set the fire after a disagreement with his mother. The teen was angry at his mom after she punished him from seeing his girlfriend for two to three weeks. His story changed several times. One story indicating that his imaginary friend, Drake, set the fire.

"One of the key things that the court and frankly we will be looking at is what's going on between the ears," said prosecutor Dan Byer.

Byer presented 8 witnesses and more than 70 photos to support aggravated arson and first degree murder charges.

After a 3 and a half hour hearing, Judge Dan Michael ruled there is probable cause to believe the teen did it.

"It is clear to me that you started that fire, that you murdered your mother, who had been a person, and you did it in a pre-meditated manner," said Michael.

Gwendolyn Wallace's family showed up in droves to support the teenager. As one, the victim's family told the judge they do not want the 14-year-old to be sent to 201 Poplar because they believe he needs psychiatric help.

"That was a beautiful moment. I've never see both sides of the family come together like that, holding hands in front if the judge, united, asking for this child gets help. It was a beautiful thing," said defense attorney Rob Gowen.

The transfer hearing was put on hold because the state psychologist, a key witness, had to go to the ER with a possible broken hip Wednesday. A continuation date will be set.

If the teen stays in the juvenile system, he would be free by his 19th birthday.

The juvenile's name will be not released by Action News 5 unless he is charged as an adult in the crimes.

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