$1M bond for parishioner charged with torching church

| February 2, 2010

A parishioner was ordered held on $1 million bond Monday after being charged with using a lighter to start an extra-alarm fire at his Northwest Side church Sunday night.

James Deichman, 61, of the 6200 block of North Cicero Avenue, was charged with arson of a place of worship, police said. The charge was approved at 4:48 a.m.

Deichman, who was immediately apprehended at the crime scene by Jefferson Park officers, according to News Affairs, was ordered held on $1 million bond Monday.

The three-alarm alarm fire started about 9:30 p.m. at Edgebrook Lutheran Church at 6436 N. Hiawatha Ave., Fire Media spokesman Quention Curtis said.

Garbage cans in the rear of the rectory started on fire and spread, according to Fire Media Affairs Director Larry Langford, who said the rectory was evacuated. A pastor was on the scene.

Jefferson Park District police Lt. John Lewison, however, said there were actually two fires — the garbage can fire in the alley and a separate fire in the church that Deichman allegedly set.

Lewison said Deichman’s life was saved by 48-year-old Jefferson Park District Sgt. James Blaul, who saw the garbage fire and called the fire department. He became suspicious when he saw a broken window and looked inside the church’s front door to see an “orange glow.

He said, "Hey, we got a fire in the sanctuary,’’ Lewison said of Blaul.

After getting inside, he and fire crews found piles of items in the middle of the floor that were “burning pretty fiercely,’’ Lewison said.

They then found Deichman sitting on a flight of stairs. He allegedly made a spontaneous statement incriminating himself, although his words did not make sense, Lewison said.

As he was being escorted from the church he allegedly admitted to Blaul that, “I set the church on fire because it was more economical,’’ according to a police report, which said he also admitted to Cook County State’s Attorney’s office authorities that he used a lighter to burn the inside of the church.

“It is highly commendable that he was able to rescue an alleged offender from mortal danger,’’ Lewison said of Blaul, who had been on the force for 19 years.

Deichman, reportedly a retired postal worker, is a member of the church and was described as “manic,” according to police.

Lewison said church officials suspected it may have been him and had expressed worry for him lately, even planning a social intervention. It was not known what he was worried about.

Langford said the man was not burned in the fire and was not taken to a hospital.

Lewison said a firefighter was injured and taken to Resurrection Medical Center for a twisted ankle. He was later released.

About 130 firefighters battled the blaze, which was under control by about midnight, according to Langford.

The fire was initially “fully involved” in the two-and-one-half story, 50-by-200-foot church, which was heavily damaged, Curtis said.

The police Bomb and Arson Section and Grand Central Area detectives are investigating.



Tags: ,

Category: Church Security

Comments are closed.