A 15-year-old Guyana schoolgirl was charged as an adult on Monday with the murder of 19 people after police accused her of setting fire to a school dormitory in retaliation for confiscating her mobile phone.
The fire killed 18 of her classmates, and a five-year-old boy who was confined inside the building after a dorm matron locked the doors from the inside to prevent female students ages 12 to 18 from escaping to socialize with males from a nearby mining town.
The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.
Monday, a court south of the capital city of Georgetown ordered the 15-year-old girl to be detained pending further hearings after she appeared virtually for the proceedings.
She has not yet been permitted to enter a guilty or not-guilty plea and will appear in court on July 5 for another hearing. State and defense attorneys will then determine whether a preliminary trial can begin.
If she is found culpable of intentionally setting fire to the Mahdia Secondary School earlier this month, she faces up to life in prison.
The school, a government residential school serving remote indigenous villages in the country’s southwest, was discovered engulfed in flames shortly after midnight on May 21.
Approximately two dozen pupils were injured as firefighters attempted to rescue them from the iron-grill-covered building that was on fire.
Twenty additional students were also rescued.
One of the severely injured students was transferred to a New York hospital for specialized care, while the majority of the injured students have been released.