updated 11:51 PM UTC, Dec 4, 2016

Four Students Burn Down Principal’s Home

Four Students Burn Down Principal's Home

( 4UMF NEWS ) Four Students Burn Down Principal’s Home:

Four disgruntled Idaho students torched their principal’s home in a fiery revenge plot over a suspension and then bragged about the blaze on social media, police said.

Charges against the boys, three high schoolers and a middle schooler who are all under 18, are pending, Payette Police Chief Mark Clark said. Police tracked down the foursome through a series of boastful Snapchat messages that included flame emojis.

Payette High School Principal Mark Heleker, his wife, their 24-year-old daughter and their pets escaped the Feb. 22 fire, which ruined the house and destroyed three cars in the driveway.

“It appears to be some retaliation against the principal for a couple of them being suspended for the week prior,” Clark told the Idaho Statesman.

Heleker, who has worked for the school district for 22 years, said he knows the accused high school students, but he has never met the middle schooler.

Police said the students started the blaze after they broke into the cars parked in front of Heleker’s home. The flames started in a plastic trashcan in the driveway and then quickly spread to the home.

Heleker’s daughter Katie discovered the blaze when she took her dog out for a walk that night.

Payette High School Principal Mark Heleker and his wife raised their five kids in the home.
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Payette High School Principal Mark Heleker and his wife raised their five kids in the home.
“As she and Baxter came out of the house and came off the porch, she saw the flames coming out of the garage so she came in and woke us up,” Heleker told KTVB.

Katie Heleker scooped up the rest of the family’s pets — a snake, a lizard and a fish — and ran out of the home with her parents and her dog. When firefighters got the blaze, they were able to salvage a few photo albums and personal items before the flames worsened.

“It is the most helpless feeling,” Heleker said of watching his house, where he and his wife raised their five kids, burn. “It’s like something you see in a movie that you don’t think will ever happen to you.”

The Helekers moved into a motel and borrowed cars from family and friends. Days after the blaze, Helekee’s son, who is away at college, spotted the suspicious messages on Snapchat. Police began investigating the immodest messages and eventually linked them to the four accused students.

Students at Payette High School have rallied around their principal in the wake of the tragedy. They set up an online fundraiser to help the family and delivered an oversized card to Heleker’s office this week, he said.

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