Motion delays trial in arson of historic church

| August 15, 2010

WAVERLY — The trial for a man accused of setting fire to a historic church has been delayed while the court decides a motion to suppress his confessions.

David B. Longworth, 33, was arrested after law enforcement responded to the fire at Hamman Church near Piketon about 12:23 a.m. March 27. Longworth subsequently was indicted on charges of arson, a fourth-degree felony; breaking and entering, a fifth-degree felony; and vandalism, a fifth-degree felony.

Longworth, who has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in April, allegedly was intoxicated when he initially confessed to law enforcement, according to the motion to suppress filed by his Portsmouth attorney, Gene Meadows. As such, Meadows contends his client's "intoxication leads one to the conclusion the Defendant was impaired and was unable to understand the nature of the waiver."

Meadows also contends Longworth was led into his confession by officers after Longworth initially denied setting the fire. He contends Longworth first agreed it must have started with a cigarette and then later agreed it started with paper when officers learned the cause.

Meadows also alleges Longworth asked if he needed an attorney 55-minutes into the initial interview and was told, despite being handcuffed, that "he did not need a lawyer because he was not under arrest." He also alleges officers made promises and one told Longworth "any alleged theft could be taken care of with $3.00 and a pack of cigarettes."

Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk said he doubts the validity of the comment and said it is not part of any recorded interview he has heard.

"I can't see anyone from the State Fire marshal's Office or the Pike County Sheriff's Office saying something like that," he said.

Junk also said he is not too concerned about Longworth's confession being suppressed because even if the Judge Randy Deering would agree that Longworth's intoxicated state made him incapable of knowingly waving his right to remain silent, Longworth made another confession a few days later.

According to documents in the case file, assistant fire marshal Joshua Hobbs went to do a follow-up interview and Longworth "immediately began apologizing for 'burning the church' and asked to assist in the rebuilding process."

Longworth also allegedly told Hobbs he broke into the church and started a fire in the floor to "stay warm" and believed he had put it out before leaving.

According to Longworth's undated voluntary written statement, he had been at his brother's apartment when he got mad and took off walking.

"I was cold and anted to sit and think again. I (remembered) seeing an old building that I thought was abanded [sic] in the middle of a field,"

Longworth writes he was smoking and flipped the cigarettes in front of him before he decided to walk on home when he was detained by deputies "telling me what happend [sic] a little before I couldn't believe it. I just want to say I will do what I can to rebuild this church for these people. I never ment [sic] for any of this to happend [sic]."

Longworth was detained because he matched the description of a man a church neighbor had seen. She told deputies Longworth had opened and then shut her house door, and when she looked outside she saw the church on fire and a man coming from behind her car, according to her written statement.

The fire destroyed the Sunday school rooms and heavily damaged the sanctuary of Hamman Church, which was built in 1849. The congregation is collecting the donations to rebuild. The court will conduct a hearing on the motion to suppress at 9 a.m. Aug. 23.

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Category: Church Security

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