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3 Sketches Released in Texas Church Fires Probe

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  • Texas Church Fires
    Composite sketch of a person of interest in a string of Texas church fires.
  • Texas Church Fires
    Composite sketch of a person of interest in a string of Texas church fires.
  • Texas Church Fires
    Composite sketch of a person of interest in a string of Texas church fires.
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By Aaron J. Leichman, Christian Post Reporter
February 13, 2010|10:56 am

Sketches of three people sought in connection with the spate of church fires in eastern Texas were released Friday along with a plea to the public.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) released the drawings at a news conference in Tyler, Texas, on Friday - one day after two more churches were determined to be victims of arson.

"We have a serial arsonist out there," said Robert Champion, special agent in charge of ATF's Dallas, Texas, office. "We need help from the public."

Over the past two months, a total of 11 churches have been damaged by fire - 10 of which were found to be set ablaze deliberately.

So far, there are no clear links between the fires, which have struck churches of different denominations on different days of the week and at different times of the day.

Investigators have been looking into leads from their tip line and conducted a number of interviews - which have thus far led to the sketches released Friday.

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Tom Crowley, ATF's public information officer, didn't say that the three individuals depicted in the sketches were suspects in the investigation but said they were people investigators want to get a hold of.

"We just want to identify, locate and interview them," Crowley said, according to The Dallas Morning News.

The images released Friday show one man with short hair and a flame-like "swirled" tattoo on his neck, another short-haired man with a cross tattoo on his left forearm, and a third man with longer hair.

Authorities are offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to arrests and convictions.

Police patrols, meanwhile, have been stepped up near churches in eastern Texas, where nine of the last ten church attacks took place.

At many churches, members have also been patrolling around themselves and staying at their churches to protect them.

"Many many churches in the area that I know of are having people that spend the night in the church or outside the church and they have alarm systems also," reported Monty Nation, whose church - Clear View Church in Tyler - was one of a few that reported a break-in attempt but no fire.

According to the Gallup Organization, 49 percent of Texans say they attend a church or synagogue once a week or almost every week.

The state with the largest service attendance - Alabama, with 58 percent - was also struck by a spate of church fires back in 2006.

The three college students who were caught and later pleaded guilty to setting nine Alabama churches on fire described the spree as a joke that "got out of hand."

Coincidentally, the Alabama church attacks took place early in the month of February. Benjamin Nathan Moseley, Russell Debusk, Jr., and Matthew Lee Cloyd were arrested one month later.

 

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