Lumberton church arsonist gets 25 years in plea deal

| October 2, 2010

HARDIN COUNTY – KFDM News has learned a plea bargain has finally brought to an end the case of a man charged in a church burglary and arson that devastated the community of Lumberton.

Daniel James Allen, 20, pleaded guilty to arson and was sentenced to 25 years in prison late Friday morning by Judge Joe Bob Golden at the Hardin County Courthouse.

Allen was charged with arson and burglary of a building in a December 9, 2009 fire that heavily damaged Fletcher Emanuel Church Alive in Lumberton.

Investigators say Allen admitted burglarizing the fellowship hall, stealing about $40 cash from the safe, then setting the church offices on fire to cover up the burglary.

No one was hurt.

Arson of a religious building is a first degree felony. Allen could have faced up to life in prison.

The congregation, now called SouthPoint, moved to a new location. It was a move planned before the fire.

Hardin County District Attorney David Sheffield told KFDM News Allen was also sentenced Friday to 25 years in prison for Aggravated Assault of a Public Servant. Sheffield said Allen threatened a Hardin County jailer with a shank on June 18.

Allen will serve the sentences concurrently, according to Sheffield, and will have to serve at least 12 1/2 years before he's eligible for parole.

Prosecutors dropped the church burglary charge against Allen, and an unrelated charge of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, as part of the plea deal.

"Accomplishes all of the objectives we had," Sheffield told KFDM News. "Punish him for his offense and also keep him off the streets so he doesn't commit any other crimes in our community."

"I think it was a fair plea," said defense attorney Bo Horka. "His parents were here and I think they agree it was fair. They realize he has done some bad things. I think it's a lot of immaturity."

We spoke with Lumberton Fire Marshal Jim Philp, who helped investigate the arson.

"It's important that the Lumberton community know that their fire and police officials were working diligently to ensure that when a high profile case such as this is resolved, that we have the capacity and professionalism to resolve it in this manner," said Philp.

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Category: Church Security

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