Principal Mark Heleker and his wife, Lori, and their 24-year-old daughter, Katie, were home the night of the inferno. Their son, Brian, was away at college.
“He’ll be home from college in a week and I don’t think he’s going to stay here," Heleker said of his son's room, which was above the garage.
Authorities say that hours after the the Feb. 22 fire, a high school student posted on social media an emoji of flames with the message, "Burn b**** burn."
Three high school students and one middle schooler were arrested for burning down the home, police said. One suspect has been charged with first degree arson, and the other three have been charged with a conspiracy to commit arson. All four will be reportedly tried as adults.
Two of students had recently been suspended after a school investigation into prescription drug use, Payette Police Chief Mark Clark told the Idaho Statesman.
Investigators say the students deliberately set the fire out of revenge and then ghoulishly watched from a distance as the house burned.
The arrests have shocked the close-knit city of Payette, Idaho.
The principal has been on the job for nine years and says he knows all of the 430 students at the school, of which he himself is an alum.
Clark said: “They could actually see this fire raging, fully engulfed and one of them made a comment: 'You know what? That ass**** deserves this.' They never called 911. They had to know people were in the home sleeping.”
The principal and his wife, who is a teacher, say the incident hasn't deterred them from believing in their students.
“We've spent 20 years looking for the best in children," Lori Heleker said. "And that's not going to change because four of them made a really bad decision."