Church Fire Ruled Arson in Alabama

Jan. 4, 2008

SALEM, Al (WTVM)  Members of the Greater Bethelpore Baptist Church are dealing with the aftermath of a blaze that has left only pieces of the building where they come together to worship.

"I just couldn't believe it. It hurts in my heart to know that someone would literally burn down a church," says Deacon Woodie Paige

A passerby spotted the burning building early yesterday morning and investigators have been on the scene since then trying to determine who and what caused the fire.

Tonight Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones says that investigators now have found that it is a case of arson and they are trying to see whether there's a connection to recent incidents at other area churches.

"We haven't been able to, based on our investigations at this point, to see a connection between the church in Russell County and the church that was vandalized here in Lee County. We're keeping that option of course. We're certainly not closing the door on the possibility that there's a connection," says Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones

Members say they haven't started thinking about rebuilding yet.

They say they're more concerned with where they can worship.

"Right now we're just concerned about Sunday since it's so close and we'll just take it one step at a time," says Deacon Paige.

"Our heart goes out to the congregation of the church they basically have a shell where a church once stood," adds Sheriff Jones.

The church's deacon tells us that the congregation has made plans to hold services at Smiths Station's Town Club this Sunday until other arrangements can be made.

The Lee County Sheriff's Office asks that anyone who has any information on this case to contact them at their CRIMESTOPPERS number: 1-866-LCCS-TIP.