UPDATE: Chandler police arrest suspect in church arson

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Church members baffled at crime
azfamily.com

UPDATE JAN. 14:

The following is a press release from the Chandler Police Department:

CHANDLER -- On January 13, 2009, detectives of the Chandler Property Crimes Unit arrested Marcus Taylor, a 19-year-old Mesa resident, for the November 23, 2008 arson of the Epiphany Lutheran Church and burglary of the Greater Phoenix Chinese Christian Church. The suspect first burglarized the Greater Phoenix Chinese Christian Church, stealing a cymbal, snare and pedal for a bass drum. After stealing the instruments from the Greater Phoenix Chinese Christian Church, the suspect forced his way into the Epiphany Lutheran Church. Once inside, the suspect set fire to the church. After the arson, the suspect fled, leaving behind the stolen instruments.

A forensic identification technician was able to obtain latent fingerprints left by the suspect on the cymbal. The latent print belonged to Marcus Taylor. Marcus is charged with arson, burglary, and aggravated criminal damage.

ORIGINAL REPORT:

CHANDLER - A suspected arson and break-in at a Valley church has Chandler authorities investigating.

The church in question is no stranger to vandalism but members are still struggling with why anyone would want to target them.

"I think it's a tragedy someone come into a house of God and desecrate it," admits Jon Michael, the facilities manager at the church, admits.

Nevertheless that is just what Chandler Police say happened at the Epiphany Lutheran Church on Ray Road.

Walter Wilson, a member of the church since 1977, was the first person to find the flames. "When I opened the door the smoke was very heavy and I could see flame on the floor," he explains.

The scene looks like the vandals picked up a bench, threw it through a window and lit a fire in the old sanctuary building. " They had piled up paper and set it on fire on the carpet."

Also found at the scene were musical instruments parishioners say were stolen from the church next door. Wilson figures he must have arrived just moments after the fire was started and scared the vandals off. Everyone says they are thankful he did.

Michael tells 3TV, "Thing could have gone up in flames we could have lost the building."

This church and other Chandler churches are no stranger to vandalism and break-ins. In fact, just on Saturday a drinking fountain was ripped from a wall.

Wilson admits, "Our pastor's sermon this morning was forgiveness and I had trouble with that this morning."

The parishioners also say they are wrestling with the why. Michael says, "God's got a plan. It's in God's hands all we can do is move forward and put our trust in God."