Burglars swipe gifts for poor kids, set Modesto church on fire

| December 30, 2009

MODESTO, Calif. — A man and a woman were arrested in Modesto on suspicion of stealing Christmas gifts intended for children in need and then setting a church on fire, police said.

At about 11:44 p.m. Tuesday, Modesto police were dispatched to New Bethany Church at 315 Sixth St. to investigate a silent burglary alarm.

A patrol officer arrived within two minutes and spotted 25-year-old Hughson resident Melissa Baker walking away from the church carrying wrapped Christmas presents, police Sgt. Brian Findlen said. Baker was detained by police.

A second suspect, 39-year-old Modesto resident Randy McClain, was seen by police climbing out of one of the church windows moments later.

Findlen said officers spotted flames inside the church after McClain climbed out of the window, and within moments an explosion occurred inside, causing the windows to blow out. McClain was arrested.

The Modesto Fire Department responded to put out the blaze, which caused significant damage.

Findlen said investigators believe the fire was deliberately set to cover up evidence of the burglary.

A quick response by firefighters limited damage primarily to a building addition adjacent to the main church sanctuary, Findlen said. No damage estimate was immediately available.

Baker and McClain were booked into jail on suspicion of arson, burglary, conspiracy to commit a crime, possession of stolen property and parole violations.



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Category: Church Security

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