Two teenagers who robbed and set fire to the Ruckersville Baptist Church in Greene County, Virginia last August have been sentenced this week.
Sean Douglas Heiderscheidt, 19, and Stephen Fox, 18, will serve active prison sentences of seven and six years respectively.
Although no people were inside the church when the two committed the arson, the young men were charged with committing arson, statutory burglary with the intent to commit a felony, damaging cemetery property and petit larceny.
In a Green County Circuit Court, Fox received an additional suspended year sentence due to an additional petit larceny charge.
Although both Fox and Heiderscheidt denied the allegations, the latter expressed his regret for the situation.
“I honestly don’t know what to say,” Heiderscheidt said before his sentencing. “I’m sorry for what happened and that is all.”
However, Circuit Court Judge Daniel R. Bouton did not go easy on the pair.
“Churches are places where citizens go in their respective communities to worship,” Bouton said before his ruling. “It’s where they go for spiritual nourishment, it’s where they go to for peace and when those places are violated by serious crimes, the court must give considerable factor to what the appropriate punishment would be for the defendant.”
Bouton initially sentenced Fox to 27 total years in prison, but 21 of those years were suspended. Heiderscheidt received a total of 26 years with 19 of them suspended. Bouton said Heiderscheidt’s harsher sentencing was due to him being an adult at the time of the crime.
This week, the Ruckersville Baptist Church will begin a $700,000 restoration project.
Kyle Clements, the pastor of the church, said he was content with the ruling against both teenagers and hopes to have the church completed by the year’s end.
“I do believe justice was served,” Clements said. “I believe the judge in his statement on the reason for his sentencing was just.”