Documents: Books about demons, atheism found at home linked to Texas church fire suspect

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Atheism book found in home linked to fire suspect

DALLAS — Investigators have seized books on demons and atheism as well as rifles and knives from in a home linked to one of the men charged with setting an east Texas church on fire and suspected in a string of similar blazes.

Jason Robert Bourque, 19, and Daniel George McAllister, 21, were arrested Sunday and charged with a single count of felony arson in the torching of the Dover Baptist Church near Tyler about 90 miles east of Dallas.

Court documents 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.

Investigators searching a home Sunday in rural Grand Saline where Bourque’s girlfriend and family live discovered paperback books titled “Demon Possession” and “The Atheist’s Way,” according to an affidavit filed Tuesday by Texas Ranger Sgt. Brent Davis. Also found were four rifles, three knives and a GPS device at the double-wide manufactured home, the affidavit said.

Bourque also left graffiti in a bathroom stall at a farm and ranch supply store in Tyler that links him to another one of the fires, the affidavit said. Bourque was under surveillance on Feb. 13 when he and his father went into the store, and security video footage shows him entering the men’s bathroom, according to the affidavit.

A day later, investigators discovered a carving on a bathroom stall of an upside down cross with flames and the words “Little Hope was arson,” the affidavit said.

The Little Hope Baptist Church in Canton burned on Jan. 1, but the cause of the fire hadn’t been stated publicly at the time of the surveillance, according to the affidavit.

As a result, the cause “would not have been known to anyone else other than the fire setter,” the affidavit said.

Investigators determined that the carving wasn’t present when the bathroom was cleaned on Feb. 12, according to the affidavit.

Bourque and McAllister, described as childhood friends who used to attend the First Baptist Church in Ben Wheeler, have been ordered jailed in lieu of $10 million bond and could face life in prison if convicted. Citing a gag order, attorneys for the two men declined comment Wednesday.

Affidavits filed in the case also show that investigators obtained DNA samples from both suspects.

Investigators have matched DNA extracted from a brick found at the scene of one fire and a rock from another and want to see if it can be linked to either suspect, according to the documents.

Associated Press Writer Schuyler Dixon contributed to this report from Tyler.

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