Friends , Acquaintances Surprised By Arrest

| February 23, 2010

Friends and acquaintances of a former honor student and art major described him as quiet, and were taken aback by the news the man they knew was accused of burning at least one East Texas church with a friend.

But a look at Jason Robert Bourque's past might provide investigators with some clues as to what may have gone wrong with the 19-year-old, including the arrest of his mother in October and his alleged involvement with drugs.

One classmate at Tyler Junior College said Bourque even talked about the church fires, saying the people responsible needed to be caught.

"We all thought he was just another kid in art class. There were never any red flags screaming, 'Hey I'm setting church fires,'" Margo Fritz said in an interview with the Tyler Morning Telegraph Monday.


Ms. Fritz, who works for the newspaper, said she shared a class with Bourque, who along with Daniel George McAllister, is alleged to have intentionally set fire to at least one of 10 churches since Jan. 1.

"I saw him last Friday and nothing seemed out of the ordinary with him. He said he had gotten kicked out of his house and lost his car, but other than that everything seemed OK," she said.

Ms. Fritz said in class one Monday she talked about being called in to work on video footage of the First Church of Christ, Scientist fire.

"I complained about the timing of the fire because I was spending time with my family, and I said I hope they catch them soon. Jason was sitting there and he said, 'Those people are stupid and I hope they get caught,'" Ms. Fritz said.

She added there was another incident that she thinks about now and wonders whether it was more than college humor.

"We had an assignment to make up a greeting card and he came up with the idea of depicting Jesus Christ sneaking up on a bunny rabbit with a hatchet as the front of the card," she said.

Ms. Fritz added that Bourque had complained of being harassed by police in the vicinity of churches.

She said for the most part Bourque was quiet but also very helpful and he always went to the Baptist Student Ministry on Wednesdays for a free meal before an art class.

"He just didn't seem like a person that could be that destructive," she said.


Other friends of Bourque characterized him as a respectful and gifted young man whose life appeared to go downhill after high school.

Whitney Faber, 20, was friends with Bourque since the sixth grade, even attending the senior prom as his date.

"He was always a really good guy, always did good in school," said Ms. Faber, who grew up in Van, but now lives in Norfolk, Va.

Bourque excelled at debate and graduated from high school with honors, Ms. Faber said by phone. But after high school, he got into drugs and alcohol, she said.

"He seemed like he was very, very depressed the times I did talk to him," said Ms. Faber, who last spoke with him by phone a few months ago.

Bourque told Ms. Faber that he got kicked out of the University of Texas at Tyler for some charge, but he didn't elaborate, she said.

University of Texas at Tyler confirmed the university's police department had handled Bourque when he was a student in 2009, but would not give details citing, privacy issues.

Records show Bourque's mother, Kimberly, was arrested by Van Zandt County Sheriff's deputies in October for her alleged involvement in numerous burglaries spanning two counties.

When she was arrested at a home in Van, investigators found what appeared to be a usable amount of methamphetamines. She subsequently was charged with burglary and drug possession.

Records also show Bourque's parents divorced in 2002 and those close to him say his grandparents took him in and raised him.

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Category: Church Security

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