Church arsonist admits to knowing family with infant child was sleeping in building

Church arsonist admits to knowing family with infant child was sleeping in building
Photo provided by MGN Online.
Friday, June 7, 2013 - 7:10pm

Today, State Fire Marshal Investigators arrested William Sexton, 25, of Oil City for setting fire in April to the Vivian United Pentecostal Church. The fire destroyed the church sanctuary.

During the early morning hours of April 23, 2013, State Fire Marshal Investigators were called upon to investigate the cause of a fire at the Vivian United Pentecostal Church, located at 900 Pecan Street in Vivian. Investigators were joined at the scene by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and a joint investigation ensued. Investigators were able to determine the fire’s area of origin to be at or near the pulpit within the church sanctuary. No apparent accidental cause was revealed during their fire scene investigation.

A specially trained canine, capable of detecting trace amounts of liquid accelerates, was introduced into the fire scene. The canine provided no alert indicating the presence of liquid accelerant residue, but investigators noted an abundant amount of common combustible materials, such as paper products, within the fire’s area of origin. Investigators determined there to be sufficient amounts of ordinary combustibles to support the fire’s development and growth in that area. No ignition source was identified.

Investigators early on turned their attention toward William Sexton as a suspect in the fire. Sexton, who was a former church member, had been involved in an ongoing dispute with the pastor of the church. Sexton was initially very cooperative with investigators and readily provided statements as to his whereabouts on the morning of the fire. Sexton denied any involvement in setting fire to the church.

Through an in-depth investigation involving telephone records, video surveillance, and witness statements, investigators were able to determine that Sexton had been less than truthful in the statements he provided. Today, investigators were able to confront Sexton concerning inconsistencies in his previous statements. Sexton ultimately provided a full confession, sighting his anger toward the church’s pastor as the motivating factor for setting the fire.

At the time of the fire, a wing of the church facility was occupied by a traveling evangelist, his wife and their 18 month old child. Sexton admitted to knowing that the three were sleeping within the facility at the time he set the fire. As a result, Sexton has been charged with Aggravated Arson for setting fire to a structure and knowingly endangering human life. The Vivian Police Department provided valuable assistance throughout the investigation.

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