PD: LDS church fire an arson case


by Andrew Michalscheck

Video report by Crystal Cruz

Posted on July 6, 2012 at 2:58 PM

Updated Saturday, Jul 7 at 10:40 AM

Map: 700 N. 95th Avenue

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TOLLESON, Ariz. -- The fire that broke out at an LDS church late last month is being investigated as a criminal matter.

Authorities announced on Friday that the fire that took place on June 29 at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints near 91st Avenue and Van Buren Street was started on purpose.

Investigators said during a press conference that an individual broke into the church, vandalized the property, and then used some type of accelerant to commit arson.

More than 100 leads have already been investigated, but police declined to discuss specifics about their investigation. They did, however, state that it does not appear as if the fire was a hate crime.

Last month’s fire completely destroyed the church, which was attended by approximately 1,400 members. No one was injured by the early morning blaze.

"We appreciate the many messages of sympathy and support from our community. We are saddened by today's findings, and thank the investigators for their efforts," the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in a statement. "At this time, there are no firm details available regarding the rebuilding of the chapel in Tolleson. Members from the area are meeting in other chapels in the west Phoenix area until those decisions can be made."

Police are offering a $10,000 reward for any information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with any information is being asked to call 623-936-2739.