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Teen pleads guilty in July church arson
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Amanda Constance Braatz, 18, one of two girls accused of desecrating Stewart Baptist Church in July and burning down two homes in a subdivision in April, pled guilty Tuesday to all charges.

In a non-negotiated plea, Braatz was sentenced to 20 years for each count of arson, five of which will be served in confinement; 20 years probation for the three counts of burglary; and five years probation for vandalism to a place of worship.

Given Braatz's age and history, Judge John Ott said he thought she would serve less than five years in prison.

 When asked by Ott why she had committed the crimes, Braatz was unable to articulate her reasons. She said she had not meant for it to happen and that the crimes had only seemed fun at the time.

Ott said he wanted to send a message to the community that crimes of this nature would not be tolerated, even by people as young as Braatz.

As part of her sentence, Braatz and her 14-year-old accomplice will share equally in paying for the damages they caused. The court also ordered that Braatz and her collaborator are not allowed to speak again; she is not to visit the arson sites; and she is not permitted to return to the Stewart Baptist Church unless invited by the church.

A former Alcovy High School student, Braatz was arrested in August and charged with two counts of first degree arson, vandalism to a place of worship and three counts of burglary. One of the homes burned was a total loss while the other was 80 percent complete at the time.

The church sustained roughly $26,000 worth of damage with blasphemous and obscene graffiti covering the walls of the pre-kindergarten section. Arts and crafts supplies were scattered throughout the area, as was food and glass.

According to NCSO Lt. Bill Watterson, Braatz, along with a 14-year-old Indian Creek Middle School girl, left telling graffiti at each location, which linked the crimes.

Braatz previously pled not guilty to the charges in November 2006.