By DON O'BRIEN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
A Quincy teen arrested on suspicion of starting a fire at the construction site of a popular Quincy restaurant pleaded guilty to an arson charge Friday.
Alex D. Frieden, 18, could be get up to 31/2 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections when he is sentenced Oct. 21 by Judge Scott Walden. He could have been sentenced to up to seven years without a plea negotiation. Frieden, who has no previous felonies, is eligible for probation.
Quincy police reported the investigation into a small fire early March 31 at the site of Sprout's Inn at 2814 N. 12th, where a new restaurant was being built to replace the one destroyed by fire in June 2012. Firefighters and investigators determined that the fire was intentionally set in an area that had no electric service or other heat source. Burned lumber also was found in another area.
Sprout's owners offered a reward for information leading to an arrest in the case. Adams County First Assistant State's Attorney Gary Farha said Sprout's owner, Jenny Wiemelt, received information that helped lead investigators to Frieden. A co-worker of Frieden's at the Tower Pizza restaurant turned him in.
"(Frieden) told (the informant) that he ‘did something crazy and lit Sprout's on fire,' " Farha said.
Farha said the fire started on a stack of two-by-fours. He said investigators found three other spots at the construction site where attempts to start a fire had been made.
Frieden told investigators that he had been smoking cigarettes and tossed a butt into a pile of sawdust. He said he saw the fire start but did not call for emergency help.
Frieden will have to make restitution in the case. Farha said the fire caused at least $2,500 in damage. The new Sprout's just opened earlier this week.
Frieden was arrested June 19 and was lodged in the Adams County Jail on $25,000 bond. He was released July 10 on a $10,000 recognizance bond. He must stay 1,000 feet away from Wiemelt's property, enroll in school and abide by a 10 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew.