Thursday, December 16, 2010




Church arsonists to plead guilty
Monitor Staff Reports
TYLER–News that church arson suspects intended to plead guilty to setting fires at 13 East Texas churches January and February was greeted with positive responses from law enforcement and pastors.
“It’s (confessing) important for them,” Russell Memorial United Methodist Church pastor Billy Watson told the Tyler Morning Telegraph Dec. 9.
“We’re in prayer for (the suspects) and their families. We can’t imagine what would have caused them to do that,” the Will Point minister said.
Jason Bourque, 20, and Danial McAllister, 22, believed to have set fire to eight churches in Athens, Canton, Lindale and Tyler between Jan. 1 and Feb. 4, were to enter a guilty plea Wednesday.
Canton’s Little Hope Baptist Church was the first, followed by three churches in Athens – Faith Baptist Jan. 1, and Jan. 11, Grace Community Church. Minutes later, shortly after midnight, the Lake Athens Baptist Church was struck.
Russell Memorial Methodist in Wills Point was torched early Feb. 4.
The search for suspects employed federal, state and local law enforcement throughout East Texas, with nearly 300 officers and numerous man-hours spent.
Bourque and McAllister were arrested Feb. 21, after six more churches in Tyler and two in Lindale were torched.
The pair was indicted on arson charges May 25.
Despite the attack on their church, members at Lake Athens Baptist Church have prayed for the suspects, senior pastor John Green told the Telegraph. Their church leaders, calling the fire a “hurtful act,” said the congregation is better for having gone through the process of rebuilding.
Russell United Methodist finished construction and rededicated their sanctuary the end of November, and Lake Athens Baptist, with the help of the Texas Baptist Men and Christian Builders, anticipate construction completion in 2011 without incurring debt.
Athens Fire Chief John McQueary sees the anticipated guilty plea as a closure for the community.
“The fires were devastating and scary at the same time, because it was just so random,” he told the Telegraph. “I think the ATF setting up their team in Athens is what drove the suspects to another area. I am surprised they are going to plead guilty, but then again, the evidence against them was pretty overwhelming.”
In February, ATF Dallas Bureau Chief Robert Champion said investigators were confident that Bourque and McAllister were responsible for all the fires and confirmed there were multiple DNA samples taken from several of the church fire scenes.
Lead federal investigator Clay Alexander reflected on the two-month long investigation and capture of the suspects.
“It was a long and hard investigation, with many of us spending nights and weeks from our families,” he told the Telegraph. “Now that they are pleading guilty, it’s very satisfying knowing justice is being served.”
Bourque’s mother, Kimberly, described her son as someone who still has a lot to offer the world, as she hoped East Texans would reserve a little more compassion for her son.
McAllister’s dad, David, said he was upset by the charges against his son, saying he didn’t think his son would have done anything like that. He pointed to the death of his wife in October, 2007, as a possible explanation, because mother and son were very close.
After her death, the elder McAllister said he struggled as a father to keep his son on the right track.
“All I can say as a dad is that I wish it didn’t happen,” he told the Telegraph in February. After the recent news of his son’s intent to confess, he added that “he’ll do his time.”

Canton officer attacked, suspects flee, burglary nixed
CrimeStoppers offers $1,000 reward
By Julie Vaughan,
Monitor Staff Writer

CANTON–A Canton police officer is home from the hospital after being assaulted early Dec. 9 while he was checking on suspicious activity behind a business.
Around 4:25 a.m., Canton Police Chief Michael Echols said officer J.P. Marsh noticed some lights behind the Tractor Supply Company, located on State Highway 243.
“He pulled up to the ramp behind Bealls and walked toward where he saw these lights,” Echols said. “That is when he was struck from behind, in the head.
“They ambushed my officer,” Echols said. “He didn’t even see it coming.”
Echols said his dispatchers keep in contact with officers every three minutes when they are out on calls.
“He must have keyed up at one point, because she (the dispatcher) only heard breathing,” Echols said. “Then 10 minutes later, he calls for backup.”
Marsh received two marks on the top of his head and Echols said Marsh is believed to have lost consciousness during that 10 minutes before a Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Deputy arrived on scene to assist.
Marsh was the only Canton officer on duty at the time of the incident.
Echols said the person responsible for striking Marsh is believed to have been standing on the third step of the back deck area. The object used for the assault was a heavy metal shelving piece, which was found at the scene.
Echols said the piece has been sent to a crime lab in Garland for DNA processing.
Marsh was sent to Trinity Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler and was released at mid-morning Thursday.
“The object was blunt, so there was swelling on the outside of his (Marsh’s) head and some bruising,” Echols said.
He went on to say that Marsh, who has been with the department since April, 2007, was ready to be back on shift Thursday night.
“He is a dedicated officer, and it always bothers him when there is a burglary on his shift. He looks out for the businesses,” Echols said. “That was the main thing he was concerned about – if they got anything.”
Echols said after speaking with Tractor Supply Company employees and the contractors who were doing work behind the building, they determined nothing was missing.
“He (Marsh) was pretty happy about that,” Echols said. “He definitely interrupted something that was about to happen.”
Van Zandt County CrimeStoppers, along with the Canton Police Department, is seeking information on this assault of a police officer. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the police department at (903) 567-4991 or CrimeStoppers at (903) 567-STOP [7867].

Kemp woman inventor to appear on Discovery Health Channel’s ‘Homemade Millionaire’
Monitor Staff Reports
NEW YORK, NY–Kemp resident Deedra Scherm will be one of the first three female contestants to appear on the premiere of “HomeMade Millionaire,” showing at 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 17 (tomorrow night), on the Discovery Health Channel.
Each hour-long episode follows the competitivejourney of three women vying for a chance to sell their inventions on the Home Shopping Network.
Open calls were held throughout the country, and thousands of women showed up with their unique products in hand, with the hopes of being part of this experience.
Scherm, 38, made the cut with her Klipson Headband.
She, along with other inventors, were put through a series of tasks designed to get their product ready for consumers.
With the help of a coach and two marketing professionals, the women readied their unique products with a marketing strategy to present to the Home Shopping Network.
In addition to HSN executives, each judges panel will include a guest celebrity judge and experts in the fields of home, beauty, food and fashion.
Scherm and her husband Kris, along with their three boys, David, 6, Keifer, 4, and Charlie, 16 months, are newcomers to the Kemp community, coming from California.
The couple completed their move in June, shortly after adopting their youngest son, Charlie.
Deedra is the daughter of Dennie and George Lindsey and neice of longtime Becker Community residents Debbie and Ray Hicks.
A watch party with family and friends is set for the day after the television premiere in Becker.

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