Judge to decide order of trials in church fire

| June 10, 2010

WINDER – The preacher and son charged with burning down New Life Deliverance Ministries Church in 2005 will return to Barrow County Superior Court on Monday to determine which of the two will stand trial first.

Judge Currie Mingledorff agreed to separate trials for pastor Quincy Arnold, 50, and his son, Maurice Arnold, 25, though prosecutors believe the Arnolds and a third man all played a part in torching the secluded church at 215 Pierce Road between Winder and Carl.

Both the pastor and his son should be back in Mingledorff's courtroom Monday, when a judge will set a date for the first of the men to begin his trial, according to District Attorney Brad Smith. Prosecutors do not know which man will be tried first, but they are prepared to begin trying one of the cases next week, Smith said.

The third man charged in the arson, Bruce Edward Smith, 48, of Monroe, may agree to plead guilty Monday, his appointed lawyer, Jacob Rogers, told Mingledorff at a hearing Wednesday.

The Arnolds' attorney, Adrian Patrick, was not in court Wednesday.

All three men were arrested in early 2009, more than four years after the someone poured gasoline down the aisle of New Life Deliverance Ministries Church and set it on fire. They are charged with first-degree arson, conspiracy to commit arson, vandalizing a place of worship and insurance fraud.

Quincy Arnold believes the police coerced his son, who he said suffers from bipolar disorder, into confessing to arson, Arnold said outside the courtroom Wednesday. He denies having anything to do with the crime.

"Why would I go after my own place?" he said.

Prosecutors believe Quincy Arnold asked his son to torch New Life Deliverance Ministries so he could collect insurance money. Smith and Maurice Arnold set the fire shortly before 4 a.m. Dec. 7, 2005, according to the indictment against them.

Arsonists kicked in the church door, poured gasoline down the aisle from the pulpit to the back of the church and set it ablaze, investigators said at the time. The fire gutted the sanctuary but the building exterior was not heavily damaged.

The 200 or so members of New Life held services in their cramped fellowship hall for months while they rebuilt the ruined sanctuary.

New Life subsequently folded in 2008 and another congregation, Church @ Pierce Road, worships there.

 

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