Alabama Church Fires Three Students Arrested (1 Viewer)

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cablewithaview

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Three students have been arrested in connection with 10 church fires in Alabama.

Two of the men, Ben Moseley and Russell Debusk, attended Birmingham Southern College. They were arrested at the college.

The third, Matthew Lee Cloyd, is a student at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.

Moseley and Debusk made an appearance in federal court in Birmingham late Wednesday morning. Cloyd, who was arrested later in the day, will probably be taken to court Thursday.

None of the students has a previous criminal record.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) made the arrests.

The ATF had made the Alabama church arson case a top priority. Scores of ATF agents joined state and local law officers in the probe.

Alabama Representative Spencer Bachus said that law enforcement agents had been able to trace the tracks from special-ordered to tires to Cloyd, which led them to Moseley and Debusk.

Of the 10 fires (see map), five were in Bibb County in cenral Alabama and four were in western Alabama. Another church fire in Lamar County on February 11 has been ruled an arson, but investigators haven`t determined if it was connected to the others.

At this point, no racial motive is being attached to the attacks. The ten churches were evenly split in terms of the race of their congregations. All of the churches were Baptist, but that appears now to have been a coincidence.

One federal source said the motive of the three arsonists was that they just liked to set and watch fires.

According to court papers, Cloyd told a witness that Moseley did it as a joke and it got out of hand.



`Joke` Gone Wrong

http://www.weis990am.com/
 

cablewithaview

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Students say church arsons meant as ‘a joke’

Third suspect arrested in torchings of nine Alabama places of worship

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Three college students, including two aspiring actors known around campus as pranksters, were arrested Wednesday in a string of nine church fires across Alabama.

Federal agents said the defendants claimed the first few fires were set as “a joke” and the others were started to throw investigators off the track.

Gov. Bob Riley said the church arsons did not appear to be “any type of conspiracy against organized religion” or the Baptist faith. With the arrests, he said, “the faith-based community can rest a little easier.”

Benjamin Nathan Moseley and Russell Lee Debusk Jr., both 19-year-old students at Birmingham-Southern College, appeared in federal court and were ordered held on church arson charges pending a hearing Friday.

Matthew Lee Cloyd, 20-year-old junior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, was also arrested.

Nine churches torched
The fires broke out at five Baptist churches in Bibb County south of Birmingham on Feb. 3 and four Baptist churches in west Alabama on Feb. 7. The federal Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agency had made the arsons its top priority, with scores of federal agents joining state and local officers.

“While all three are entitled to have their day in court, we are very hopeful that this is the end to the fear that has been rampant in West Alabama,” said Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala.

An affidavit said Moseley told agents on Wednesday that he, Cloyd and Debusk went to Bibb County in Cloyd’s Toyota sport utility vehicle and set fire to five churches. A witness quoted Cloyd as saying Moseley did it “as a joke and it got out of hand,” according to the affidavit.

Moseley also told agents the four church fires in west Alabama were set “as a diversion to throw investigators off,” an attempt that “obviously did not work,” the affidavit said.

The first two suspects were arrested Tuesday night, NBC’s Pete Williams reported.

WVTM-TV, citing the state fire marshal’s office, said the two are students at Birmingham Southern College and were arrested at a college dorm.

Authorities analyzed tire tracks and traced the purchase of the tires to Cloyd.

Investigators found tracks at one fire from a BF Goodrich all-terrain tire, according to NBC’s Williams. Provided with a description of a Toyota Forerunner SUV from witnesses at a few of the fires, federal agents checked tire dealers for records of purchases for tires on that kind of vehicle, and came up with Cloyd’s mother.

The pastor at one of the destroyed churches said he was told of the arrests by investigators.

“We are relieved. We were fearful while they were on the loose because we did not know their agenda,” said Jim Parker, pastor of the Ashby Baptist Church in Brierfield, which was burned to the ground.

Ten Baptist churches in rural parts of the state were burned by arsonists last month. Nine of the fires — five on Feb. 3 in Bibb County and four on Feb. 7 in west Alabama — have been linked. Another church fire on Feb. 11 in Lamar County has been ruled arson, but investigators have not determined if it is connected to the others.

No racial pattern
There was no racial pattern — five of the churches had white congregations and five black. All were Baptist, the dominant faith in the region, and mostly in isolated country settings.

A federal source said the apparent motive was that the three students just liked to set and watch fires.

Five of the churches were destroyed and four were damaged, including one in which congregants, alerted during the night that churches were afire, arrived just as the apparent arsonists were leaving. That fire, quickly put out, had been set in the sanctuary near the altar — a pattern in the other church arsons in Bibb County and west Alabama.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11726024/
 

chieftwan

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Apr 29, 2005
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ignorant

These guys should spend a lot 20+ years in jail. This was a senseless act. What if someone had been killed in those churches.
 

cablewithaview

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It caused such panic, in certain parts of the state was put on alert and members of some of these churches started spending the night in them. Someone could have easly been killed in one of these. I'm glad they're caught, a lot of us in the fire service here is resting a little easier tonight.
 

cablewithaview

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Birmingham-Southern College responds to arrest of students in Alabama church fire...

(cont)...cases

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—Birmingham-Southern College President Dr. David Pollick and Campus Police Chief Randy Youngblood responded today (Wednesday, March 8) to the arrest of two BSC students for conspiracy and arson in the early February fires at nine Alabama churches.

Statement from Birmingham-Southern College President Dr. David Pollick:

“In response to the two students having been charged with arson of nine Alabama community churches, Birmingham-Southern College has suspended each student from the college and immediately banned them from campus awaiting further action by the authorities. The students, faculty and staff of our college are at once shocked and outraged, and we share the sorrow of our neighbors whose churches represent the heart and soul of their communities.

“These cruel and senseless acts of destruction have profoundly touched our college community. Where there once existed such a clear line between the harmless and playful and the harmful and cruel, we increasingly see young adults throughout our nation incapable of distinguishing between healthy and destructive conduct. Boundaries are all too often exceeded. The social use of alcohol moves easily and too frequently to dangerous irresponsibility. Innocent and healthy stages of interpersonal social encounters too frequently degrade to violent and personal acts of violation. We see symptoms of a culture of personal license so powerfully magnified in the actions of these young men.

“We also are deeply concerned for the families of these young men, knowing the pain they are experiencing. The entire community of Birmingham-Southern College—students, faculty, and staff—pledges to aid in the rebuilding of these lost churches through our resources and our labor. Together we’ll stand as a reminder of the strength of communities that transcend the differences of religion and place, as well as the effects of mindless cruelty.”

Statement from Birmingham-Southern College Chief of Campus Police Randy Youngblood:

“The college cooperated in every regard to the investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and the state Fire Marshall’s Office, and we will continue to do so as needed.”

http://www.bsc.edu/communications/news/active/20060308_fires.htm
 

riffjim4069

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Apr 7, 2004
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Oh, come on...give these kids a break! They're just our bored youth having some fun. I would sentence them to 30 days of community service.

~ Judge Edward Cashman (Vermont)

Back in the real world, I say give these pukes 30 years of hard labor to contemplate their crimes. Alabama doesn't take too kindly to church burners.
 

cablewithaview

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Church arsons fueled by alcohol

BIRMINGHAM - Three bright college students from privileged backgrounds, charged in a string of rural church arsons that gripped Alabama, may have been fueled by alcohol when they first headed out, authorities said Thursday.

Federal and state authorities haven't commented on a possible motive, beyond evidence that an apparent prank spun out of control. Defense attorneys haven't commented, either, other than to say the fires weren't crimes of hate.

But authorities throughout the monthlong investigation said alcohol could have led to a warped bravado that sparked the arsons, and initial interviews with the suspects bore out the theory, according to one officer.

"We were told by official sources ... that seemingly some drinking, some night hunting, was ultimately what led to all of this," said Randy Youngblood, the campus police chief at Birmingham-Southern College, where two of the three suspects were enrolled.

Benjamin Nathan Moseley and Russell Lee DeBusk Jr., both 19-year-old theater students at Birmingham-Southern, were arrested along with 20-year-old Matthew Lee Cloyd, who was studying pre-med at the University of Alabama at Birmingham after transferring from Birmingham-Southern, a small liberal arts school.

Cloyd is the son of a doctor, and DeBusk attended college on a theater scholarship after being voted "most dramatic" by his high school classmates in 2004. Moseley was the president of the student council in high school, and his father is an elected constable.

The three are due in court for a hearing this afternoon on whether they can remain jailed on

charges of conspiracy and setting fire to Ashby Baptist Church, one of nine churches that was either destroyed or damaged in early morning fires on Feb. 3 and Feb. 7.

Alabama Attorney General Troy King called the fires a "reign of terror" that gripped rural congregations across the state.

Court documents show Cloyd told a witness this week that he and Moseley "had done something stupid" and that they set a church ablaze "as a joke." Accompanied by DeBusk, they eventually torched five churches that night in Bibb County after seeing the first fire trucks, according to the document, a sworn statement by a federal agent.

"After they lit the first two fires, it became spontaneous," said ATF regional head Jim Cavanaugh. "Excitement, thrill was the motive."

Moseley told police he and Cloyd set four more fires in west Alabama four days later "as a diversion to throw investigators off," but the plan didn't work, the agent said in the document.

In a statement about the arrests, Birmingham-Southern President David Pollick said the social use of alcohol "moves easily and too frequently to dangerous irresponsibility."

"Innocent and healthy stages of interpersonal social encounters too frequently degrade to violent and personal acts of violation," he said. "We see symptoms of a culture of personal license so powerfully magnified in the actions of these young men."

Friends of the three suspects have described behavior that turned from goofy pranks to vandalism after at least one of the young men, Cloyd, began drinking more heavily last fall. Cloyd mentioned alcohol in a Web message to Moseley earlier this year when he said it was "time to reconvene the season of evil."

"May our girlfriends be concerned about our safety, may our parents be clueless, may our beers be frosty," said the message from Facebook.com, first reported by WVUA-TV in Tuscaloosa. There was no mention of churches in the message, dated Jan. 3.

DeBusk reportedly invited a friend to go "demon hunting" last year and claimed to be a Satanist, but the trip didn't amount to much other than a night of drinking.

"All it ended up being was us playing guitar in the woods while a few of them got drunk," Jeremy Burgess, DeBusk's roommate, told The Birmingham News in an interview. "I didn't think anything of it."

Deputy state fire marshal Ed Paulk, who was involved in the church fire investigation, said he doesn't know if alcohol was directly involved in the arsons. But the crimes would break a well-established pattern if alcohol wasn't a factor, he said.

"Alcohol is involved in a majority of all crimes committed," said Paulk.

http://gadsdentimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060310/NEWS/603100329/1017/NEWS
 

cablewithaview

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Three church fire suspects may get bond

BIRMINGHAM - A federal magistrate indicated Wednesday he might release three college students on $50,000 bond in Alabama's church arson case despite a prosecutor's warning that the nine early morning fires were no "juvenile prank."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Armstrong ordered the three suspects to remain in jail pending his decision on bond, which he said would be released this morning.

Shackled and wearing orange jail uniforms, the trio were led silently to a van at the Shelby County Jail in Columbia and taken to the federal courtroom in Birmingham, where the defense emphasized their level of education and family backgrounds.

Benjamin Nathan Moseley and Russell Lee DeBusk Jr., both 19, and 20-year-old Matthew Lee Cloyd were ar-

rested last week on charges of conspiracy and setting fire to one of the nine small, Baptist churches that were torched in early February.

If convicted, each count carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.

Moseley and DeBusk were theater students at Birmingham-Southern College, and Cloyd transferred from the school last year to University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he hoped to become a doctor, like his father.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bud Henry, arguing against the release of the three on bond, mentioned several times that they were "men, not boys," and stressed the severity of the crime, which destroyed five of the churches.

"This was not some aberrant, juvenile prank," Henry said.

Authorities have not commented on a possible motive, but evidence released in court has described the fires began as a prank that got out of control on a night of drinking and illegal hunting. Defense attorneys have said the fires were not crimes of hate.

Court documents show Cloyd told a witness that he and Moseley "had done something stupid" and that they set fire to a church "as a joke."

Accompanied by DeBusk, they eventually torched five churches on Feb. 3 in Bibb County, south of Birmingham, according to the document, a sworn statement by a federal agent. Moseley told investigators he and Cloyd set four more fires in west Alabama four days later as a diversion, the agent said in the statement.

Tire tracks found at the scene of six of the fires match tires on Cloyd's sport-utility vehicle, according to authorities.

http://gadsdentimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060316/NEWS/603160306/1017/NEWS
 

BrettTRay

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Jun 16, 2004
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I'm a little north of where this happened but I know in a little town (Glencoe)about 10 miles from where I live (gadsden) someone tried to burn down a church but it was a half asses job that didn't succeed. I figure it was a bunch of teenagers.
 
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