Teen accused in 7th Avenue Gym fire denies all charges

HELENA – The teenager accused of starting a fire at Helena’s 7th Avenue Gym last month has denied all the charges against him.

The boy appeared in Lewis and Clark District Court Wednesday. He responded to four charges, including arson, burglary, criminal mischief and obstructing a peace officer.

District Judge Kathy Seeley set a trial date for the teen in June. She ordered him to remain at the juvenile detention center in Great Falls while probation officers continue to look for an alternative placement for him. However, she said if they can’t find one by next week, she will likely release the boy into his parents’ custody with an ankle monitor.

Helena police say the boy and another teen were inside the gym in January when officers arrived to investigate a broken window. They say the two tried to run away but were eventually taken into custody.

Police say the Helena Fire Department later found a garbage can that had been set on fire in the gym’s basement.

Helena School District leaders say the fire did several thousand dollars of damage to the historic building.

The other boy arrested was charged with criminal trespass, obstructing a peace officer and accountability for criminal mischief.