Two charged in Christmas Day church arson - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Two charged in Christmas Day church arson

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LOWNDES COUNTY, GA (WALB) -

A church arson case helps solve a series of church break-ins.

Two people are in jail now charged with burning down a Lowndes County church on Christmas Day.

Investigators say they set the fire to cover up a burglary. They're also now charged with breaking into other churches in three counties.

Ousley Temple Church Pastor Curtis Sermons says he hasn't been able to drive down Ousley Road since his church burned to the ground Christmas Day.

"I cut off up the road to keep from coming by here because every time I see this it brings tears to my eyes," said Sermons.  

But tonight he's thankful to know two people accused of setting the fire have been arrested. Lowndes County investigators charged Martavius Davis and Relandall Samuel with arson, burglary, and vandalism to a place of worship.

"In one way I can say that I am glad that they have been caught, in another way I'm sad because of what they did," said Sermons.

On December 25th, a witness spotted someone running from the burning church then driving away in a truck. Investigators then discovered sound equipment had been stolen from the church.

After finding some of the equipment in pawn shops, officials searched the suspects' homes for more. The duo have since been charged with multiple other church burglaries around south Georgia.

"They told me it was easy money, the knew the churches would have valuables and cash in the inside. So it was just easy money for them," said LCSO investigator, Chris Burke.

Burke says it's a relief to know that the church wasn't the target of a hate crime. But Sermons says it makes no difference to him.

"It's almost the same to me, because we lost what we had and we are working hard to restore it," said Sermons.

The church has raised $10,000 since the fire and they plan to rebuild in the future.

Davis and Samuel are also charged with breaking into churches in Thomas and Brooks Counties.

Three other suspects, Archie Cone, Kelle Lawrence, and Jessica McKeitchen, are charged with theft by receiving stolen property and theft by deception, accused of helping sell the stolen property.

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