Why Return to the Scene of the Crime? Expert Weighs in on Cedar Bridge Arson Suspects

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- The two teens charged with burning down the Cedar Bridge in Winterset were both at the scene of the crime the next day.

One of the two, 17 year-old Alex Hoff, granted an interview with Channel 13 to talk about the bridge.

That got several community members, and reporters, asking themselves "why?".

Experts say it isn't uncommon and is behavior seen in crimes like homicide and burglary.

"My theory is usually the suspects want to get close to the scene because they want to try to see just how much the police know" said Criminal Justice Professor Steven Martin.

Martin served as a police officer for over 20 years, and says that there can sometimes be other motivations for returning to the scene.

"In some cases they want to kind of look at what they did and maybe bask in the glory a little bit. I think also they're just wanting to see how people are responding to that emotionally, and sometimes they take pride in that" said Martin.

Martin says that fires, especially ones that destroy local landmarks, draw a crowd of onlookers, and an arson suspect can blend in.

So why would one then step into the spotlight and agree to an on-camera interview?

13Raw: Hoff and Davis visit the scene of Cedar Bridge arson fire

"I think what it does is it gives the appearance that they have nothing to hide, which I think psychologically probably helps them maybe believe that they're going to be able to avoid detection by putting themselves back into the situation if you will with the news media" said Martin.

Hoff is being tried as an adult, the other teen charged in the crime, Joel Davis, is 18.

Iowa law says that someone over the age of 16 charged with a forcible felony is automatically tried in adult court, which brings along one stark difference to the juvenile system.

"If they're tried as an adult they have the right to a jury trial, and if they're convicted, they go to prison" said former U.S. Attorney Nick Klinefeldt.

While Kilnefeldt says it's harder for the prosecution to get a guilty verdict from a jury rather than a single judge, the penalties are much steeper.

If found guilty an arson suspect can serve up to 25 years.

Hoff and Davis will appear in court on Wednesday.