Suspects plead guilty to East Texas church arsons - Word&Way

Suspects plead guilty to East Texas church arsons

TYLER, Texas (ABP) — Two men accused in a string of East Texas arsons fires early in 2010 pleaded guilty Dec. 15 to burning five churches in a Smith County court.

According to the Tyler Telegraph, Jason Bourque, 20, pleaded guilty to five counts of arson. Daniel McAllister, 22, pleaded guilty to two counts of arson and two counts of attempted arson. Prosecutors said they will seek life in prison for the duo when they are sentenced Jan. 10.

The charges stemmed from fires that destroyed Dover Baptist Church, Tyland Baptist Church, First Church of Christ, Scientist, Prairie Creek Fellowship Church and Clear Spring Missionary Baptist Church, all in Smith County.

In all the men are suspected of setting 10 churches on fire in three counties between Jan. 1 and Feb. 8. They were arrested Feb. 21 after more than a week of surveillance after calls to a tip line. The investigation included state, local and federal law enforcement.

A Smith County grand jury indicted both men for the crimes in May. Since their arrest they have been held in the Smith County jail on bonds of $10 million apiece.

On Dec. 9 they waived their right to a jury trial. They entered guilty pleas Dec. 15 to all of the charges against them, with of the charges reduced or dropped.

As teenagers Bourque and McAllister attended youth group together at First Baptist Church in Ben Wheeler, Texas. McAllister dropped out of church and started hanging out with the wrong crowd after his mother died from a heart attack and a stroke in October 2007. Bourque's attendance dropped off after family moved to another town about 20 miles away.


Previous ABP stories:

Grand jury hears evidence in Texas church-arson cases (5/14)

Two former Baptist youth-group members suspected in church arsons (2/22)