Nedrow teenager sentenced in Onondaga Nation church arson case

| September 2, 2009

Syracuse, NY — A Nedrow teenager was sentenced today to 1 1/3 to four years in state prison for his role in torching two churches on the Onondaga Nation in July.

"I’m sorry and I wish it never happened. I’m going to have a better life. I’m going to start over," Jacob Homer told County Judge Anthony Aloi.

Homer, 16, of Hemlock Road, pleaded guilty last month to one felony count of third-degree arson in connection with a July 5 fire at the Wesleyan Chapel Among the Onondagas. The plea satisfied burglary and arson charges stemming from a second fire the same day at the United Methodist Church Onondaga Mission.

Senior Assistant District Attorney Timothy Hennigan said Homer and a second defendant, 17-year-old Dylan Antone of Nedrow, had been drinking the morning the fires were set. Burglary and arson charges still are pending against Antone.

Aloi granted Homer youthful offender treatment, removing the felony conviction from his record and sealing the case file. The judge also said the teenager would be required to pay half the damages once the amount of restitution for the two churches is determined.

One church was destroyed, the second heavily damaged in the fires, the judge said.

Aloi noted Homer acknowledged he needed counseling for alcohol and substance abuse problems.

"This is what alcohol and drugs do to you. They make you a monster," Aloi quoted Homer as having told the probation officer who prepared the pre-sentence report for the court.

The judge said Homer’s assessment was at best an understatement and at worst "stark reality."

"These were not just buildings, they were churches," Aloi told Homer. Such places of worship are meant to provide "a safe haven from the harsh realities of everyday life," the judge added.

Aloi said Homer put the faithful to a test by his conduct. Some were willing to forgive, others less so, the judge noted.

"A church means more to people than wood and nails," he added. "It becomes a part of their lives. It becomes a part of their family."

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Category: Church Security

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