Florida man pleads guilty in Moore church fire

| October 22, 2009

A Florida man pleaded guilty Wednesday in Cleveland County District Court to burglarizing a Moore church then causing a fire that destroyed the building, according to the Cleveland County District Attorney’s office.

Richard Shawn Arnold, 29, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., pleaded guilty to second-degree arson and second-degree burglary inside District Judge Tom A. Lucas’ courtroom. Cleveland County Assistant District Attorney Rick Sitzman said Arnold admitted to starting the fire that burned down the Hope Adventist Fellowship Church on June 30.

Sitzman said Arnold was sentenced to 20 years with the Department of Corrections with 13 suspended on the arson count. Arnold received a seven-year suspended sentence for burglarizing the church.

“He’s got 27 years with 20 suspended,” Sitzman said.

He said Arnold has been held in jail since he was arrested and charged June 30. The Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office will put in a request for Arnold to be accepted into the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center to begin serving his prison sentence.

Sitzman said Judge Lucas awarded $985,027 in restitution. When Arnold is released from prison, he will begin paying $100 a month towards the restitution.

According to the Moore Fire Department, the fire was reported about 5:30 a.m. June 30 at the church located at 1426 NE 12th St. The blaze consumed the building, and the church was considered a total loss.

Firefighters said no injuries were report. After investigating the scene, investigators determined the fire was intentionally set.

According to a court affidavit, a witness saw Arnold run from the church at about 5:30 a.m. Tuesday with a “lighter wand.” The witness also told investigators he saw a thin line of smoke come from the building.

Moore police arrested Arnold at the scene for public intoxication, according to the affidavit. Officers found a lighter matching the description of the lighter seen by the witness.

The affidavit stated, Arnold admitted attempting to enter the church, but denied setting the fire.

Norman attorney Richard Wall represented Arnold. Wall said he had no comment on the case without speaking to his client.



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Category: Church Security

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