Suspicious fire at church leads to 2 arrests

Suspicious fire at church leads to 2 arrests

HARRIS COUNTY, GA (WXTX) - Two men are in custody facing charges for allegedly setting a church in Harris County on fire Tuesday night.

Burned pews, smoke damage, and even a charred Bible are the remains as Harris County Sheriff's deputies say someone set a fire inside Rehobeth Baptist Church off Preston Road in Cataula Tuesday night.

"We didn't know what to expect and whether the whole building was ablaze or what so we just kind of came up here as fast as we could," said Reverend Charles Graddick.

Graddick says the fire comes just one week before they celebrated the 125th anniversary of the church's founding. He is grateful there was not more damage and even more thankful Harris County Sheriff's deputies already have two men in custody.

"By the way the fire was set up the fire department, Cataula Volunteer Fire Department, and one of my investigators, who is an arson trained investigator, determined that it was an intentionally set fire," said Harris County Sheriff Mike Jolley.

Jolley says 37-year-old Larry Hutto Jr. And 19-year-old Cody Watson were arrested Wednesday and charged with arson in the first degree and burglary.

"Some evidentiary items were found that showed that they had been at the church. Some things from their home, beer cans of the same brand and lot number, were found at the church area," said Jolley.

Jolley says they believe burglary was a motive in this case. He says they are also investigating the possibility of this being a racially motivated crime since the church is predominantly black and the suspects are two white men.

Graddick says he cannot imagine why anyone would do this.

"I don't know what their intentions were, but they didn't stop anything. We are going on and moving on forward," said Graddick.

The Reverend says about 70 people attend the church.

He says they will not be able to have service in the church for about three to four weeks, but they probably will have service in the fellowship hall of Friendship Baptist Church in Hamilton on Sunday.

Graddick says the suspects are not members of the congregation.

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