Official: Stolen gas used in fire

| October 9, 2009

The arson fire at the Sidney Center United Methodist Church was started with gasoline taken by two men during a break-in that morning at the town of Meredith highway garage, Delaware County Undersheriff Douglas Vredenburgh said Thursday.

"Self-gratification" was the motive for Donald J. Aitken, 21, and Cody D. Fancher, 17, of East Meredith,

who were each charged with one count of third-degree arson in Delhi Town Court on Wednesday and sent to Delaware County jail on $25,000 cash bail, Vredenburgh said. He said he did not want to discuss the motive any further.

The two men were suspected to be involved in the Meredith burglary, and a determination was made by the subsequent arson investigation, Vredenburgh said.

The Delaware County Sheriff’s Department arson task force was already investigating eight suspicious building fires and several incidents of vandalism involving arson before the Oct. 1 fire.

Deputies were assisted in the arrests by state police department, which provided "great cooperation" in the investigation, along with the county Department of Emergency Services, Vredenburgh said.

The two suspects were also charged with involvement in five other fires in the county since April, including a barn blaze Oct. 1, also in Sidney Center, and three acts of vandalism Sept. 11 in the Delhi gravel banks, Vredenburgh said.

Delaware County District Attorney Richard Northrup said that he was not ready to discuss the cases.

Other arrest charges could be filed or the matter could be given to an upcoming Delaware County grand jury, he said.

The sheriff’s department had announced a $3,000 reward Tuesday for information leading to those involved, with further donations encouraged by the private sector.

The information that led to the arrests was obtained from several sources and did not come about because of the reward, Vredenburgh said, though he would not say what the information was.

Anyone with additional information on this case or others covered by the task force may call deputies at 746-2336 or (888) 914-9111. More information can be found at A determination about any reward will be made by Sheriff Tom Mills after a recommendation by the task force that is still investigating the arsons.

If any arrests are forthcoming on the six fires and vandalism Aitken and Fancher are being charged with, they would be marginal suspects, Vredenburgh said. Fires still listed as suspicious may not have been intentionally set, he said.

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Category: Church Security

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