Two arrests made in East Texas church fires

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by MONIKA DIAZ / WFAA-TV

wfaa.com

Posted on February 21, 2010 at 1:52 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 22 at 12:19 AM

Two men are behind bars, accused of setting a series of church arson fires in East Texas.

Law enforcement officials say Jason Bourque of Lindale, 19, and Daniel McAllister of Ben Wheeler, 21, have been linked to 10 church fires and three attempted burglaries since January.

Investigators say they have the evidence to prove it.

"East Texas can rest easier," said Steven McCraw, Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety. "We are confident that these individuals are responsible for it."

Detectives would detail the evidence, but they claim they found DNA at some of the scenes.

Officers arrested McAllister in San Antonio on Sunday morning without incident. His father told reporters he had suspicions that his son was behind the fires.

"It's just been here in the last two weeks, just kind of had that feeling as a parent that something wasn't quite right," David McAllister said.

Daniel McAllister attended services with Bourque at First Baptist Church in Ben Wheeler. Bourque was arrested in Van Zandt County on Sunday morning. His family in Lindale did not want to talk to News 8 on camera, but they told us the arrest came as a surprise.

The UT-Tyler student labeled himself a Christian on his MySpace Web page. It is filled with references to God and quotations.

In a section titled "heroes," he wrote:

"The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by."

The arrests brought relief to the congregations at hundreds of East Texas churches, including those that were destroyed.

"We knew that these people would be caught," said Pastor Jim McPherson of Lake Athens Baptist Church. "We prayed for them and their families. There's no hatred."

But others were not so forgiving.

In Wills Point, many are still upset over the damage done to Russell Memorial United Methodist Church.

"That is God's house. Who are they to burn it down?, said Courtnie Priest. "You don't do that no matter how mad you are, no matter how selfish you are. That's cold-hearted."

Authorities recently released three sketches of persons of interest in the case. They say those sketches are not connected to the two suspects named on Sunday.

McAllister and Bourque are facing one charge of arson for a February 8 incident at Dover Baptist Church in Tyler, but prosecutors plan to file additional arson charges this week.

The two men are being held in the Smith County jail on bonds of $10 million each.

E-mail mdiaz@wfaa.com

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