Walhalla church arsonist to enter Georgia rehab program, gets no jail time

| July 28, 2010

WALHALLA — Cody Christian Dean LeCroy will spend no time in jail for burning a Walhalla church if he completes a Georgia drug rehabilitation program.

Tenth Circuit Solicitor Chrissy Adams said Tuesday she was disappointed that Judge Cordell Maddox had not given LeCroy, 18, any of the up to 25 years in jail he faced.

“We had asked for active jail time,” Adams said. “I’m astounded.”

LeCroy, with his attorney, Druanne White, at his side, pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of second-degree arson, two counts of second-degree burglary and one count of malicious destruction of property. The arson charge carried a possible sentence of up to 15 years in jail; the burglary charges, five years each.

He was arrested in July 2009 for the burning of St. Luke United Methodist Church in Walhalla, as well as charges related to the break-in of Miss Sandra’s liquor store in Walhalla, the theft of alcoholic beverages from the store and numerous acts of vandalism.

In court Tuesday, Assistant Solicitor David Wagner outlined the events of the night of July 6, 2009, during which LeCroy slashed tires and broke windows around Walhalla and broke into the liquor, then broke into the church basement, pouring Hennessy cognac onto a sofa and setting it afire.

The church was destroyed by the fire in the early hours of July 7.

According to Walhalla police, LeCroy was under the influence of Xanax and Lortab at the time, and told them he broke into the church to wash cuts suffered in his earlier window-breaking.

White offered no excuses for LeCroy’s burning the church but told Maddox that her client, an 11th-grade dropout, had had a troubled youth with deaths of his mother, aunt and grandmother and had a clear problem with both drugs and alcohol.

Questioned by Maddox, LeCroy said he began using drugs at the age of 15 and admitted to having used marijuana as recently as three to four weeks ago.

White said LeCroy had told her he genuinely wanted to clean up his life and had personally researched the Teen Challenge of Georgia, the Dublin, Ga.-based rehabilitation program she asked Maddox to direct him to enter.

“I don’t know what advantage there would be in imprisoning him now,” White said.

The program requires a minimum commitment of a year with the possibility of 18 months in all. The rigorous program is Christian-based and uses supervised treatment beginning at 5:30 a.m. and running through 10:30 p.m. each day. The cost is $1,000 a month, an expense to be borne by LeCroy’s family.

If LeCroy fails to complete the program, White told Maddox, “then he should be sent to jail.”

“I have no sympathy for anyone who burns a church,” Maddox told LeCroy. “A 100-year-old church where people attended, were married, baptized … all gone.”

Someone who started using drugs at age 15 would usually be dead or in prison by he was 21, Maddox said, and continued to elaborate on the contributing effects of drugs to the criminal cases that crossed his bench.

“The only way I’d consider sending you (to the Georgia program) is if I hang enough time over your head that if you don’t complete it you won’t get out of jail before you’re 30,” Maddox said.

He sentenced LeCroy to 15 years on the arson charge, suspended to five years’ probation provided he completes the Georgia program.

“You either go down there and take this seriously, or you’re going to jail,” Maddox told LeCroy. “If you come back before me again, I’m going to max you out. I’m tired of people using drugs as an excuse.”

LeCroy must also make restitution of almost $3,100 to those whose property was vandalized in his crimes preceding the church fire.

St. Luke United Methodist Church did not ask for restitution and took no position in urging a prison sentence. Several members of the congregation attended Tuesday’s proceedings but offered no comments.

Sources with the Tenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office said Tuesday that Judge Maddox was unaware during the proceedings that LeCroy was arrested on July 22 by the Seneca Police Department and charged with 12 counts of vandalism, ranging from slashing tires and keying cars.

They questioned how LeCroy was supposed to enter the program in Georgia when a condition his bail on the July 22 charges was that he was not to leave South Carolina.



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Category: Church Security

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