Affidavits say convenience store video, shoe prints link suspects to 2 Texas church fires

Monday, February 22, 2010

Video, prints implicate Texas church fire suspects

TYLER, Texas — Investigators used security videotapes and shoe prints to help them link two men to two church fires in Texas, according to arrest warrant affidavits released Monday.

Jason Robert Bourque, 19, and Daniel George McAllister, 21, were arrested and charged Sunday with a single felony arson in the torching of the Dover Baptist Church near Tyler in rural Smith County. They were arraigned Monday before Judge Christi Kennedy at the state district court in Tyler, about 90 miles east of Dallas.

If convicted, Bourque and McAllister could face life in prison. Bond is set at $10 million apiece.

The affidavits, prepared by Texas Rangers Sgt. Brent Davis and presented to the court Monday, link the suspects to the Feb. 8 Dover Baptist fire and another the same day at the Clear Spring Missionary Baptist Church in nearby Lindale. The churches are among 11 that have burned in Texas this year in suspected arson attacks.

It was not immediately clear why the men were charged in only one of the fires. Tom Crowley, spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, referred the question to Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham, whose after-hours telephone number was not listed.

Brent Ratekin, McAllister’s court-appointed attorney, said Kennedy has issued a gag order against any public statements by attorneys for both sides. A message left for Greg Waldron, Bourque’s attorney, wasn’t immediately returned.

Bourque and McAllister appear on video shot by security cameras at convenience stores near the churches, according to the affidavit.

Davis said investigators received a tip that Bourque had been involved in the church fires, and they visited his home where they found a pair of muddy shoes inside the garage. The shoes matched prints found at the scene of several of the church blazes, including the Dover Baptist fire, he said.

Investigators also spoke to an unnamed member of McAllister’s family who confirmed that the suspect owned a pair of boots of a type that authorities believe were used to kick in a door during the Dover fire and at the scene of other blazes, according to Davis.

On Sunday, Crowley said DNA samples taken at the scene of several of the fires matched that of one of the two suspects, but he did not say which.

Authorities have not explained the motive behind the blazes. Crowley has said the pair used to attend First Baptist Church in McAllister’s hometown of Ben Wheeler.

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