Two Years Later, Investigators Still Looking for Leads in Monticello Church Arson

| March 12, 2010

MONTICELLO – Federal investigators charged with finding the person who burned down a Monticello church have run out of leads.

In the two years since an arsonist torched the First Presbyterian Church, 211 West 1st St, investigators have followed more than a dozen leads. Each lead has dried up.

"We did everything forensically that we could, we do have positive samples for an accelerant from the scene, I will say that,” said J.D. Underwood, Resident Agent in Charge of the Iowa Field Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

A congressional mandate a few decades ago put the ATF in charge of investigating any fire at any place of worship.

The fire in Monticello was discovered early in the morning on Saturday, March 8, 2008. Investigators aren’t sure if the arsonist started it Friday night or Saturday morning. The fire ended up destroying just about everything expect for the walls.

Underwood said they've followed every lead – from people allegedly mad at the church, to someone upset after a funeral there.

"Several rumors came in about individuals acting suspicious the day after the fire and things of that nature. We ran those rumors to the ground,” said Underwood.

Without the person who did it behind bars, the church has focused on recovery and moving ahead. But yet it’s still a troubling memory.

"For me, it’s just the idea it’s done on purpose, if it’s personal or religious related, if someone has a problem with God, angry with God,” said First Presbyterian Pastor Al Polito.

Underwood says they know exactly how the fire started, and exactly where it started, they just don't know who did it. He wouldn’t release those details because he said only the arsonist and investigators know them.

If you have a tip, no matter how small it might seem, you can call the investigators at 1-888-ATF-FIRE (888-283-3473)

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Category: Church Security

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