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Arsonist Destroys Church

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A Sunday morning blaze that destroyed a rural Arkansas Assemblies of God church is a suspected arson fire.

The predawn conflagration enveloped Crossroads Assembly of God, a congregation of 85 adherents in southwest Arkansas. The church is located four miles from Delight, a town of 270 people best known as the hometown of the late singer Glen Campbell.

The inferno engulfed the entire building.

“Fellowship hall, the sanctuary, the classrooms are all gone,” says Danny Eckert, who has been pastor of Crossroads AG for 17 years. “Nothing made it.”

According to Eckert, investigators surmise that someone unsuccessfully tried to steal a lawnmower out of a storage building behind the church. At some point, the would-be thief realized the presence of a video camera attached to the exterior of the church building, and then set fire to the structure in an attempt to cover up the burglary, Eckert says. Although nothing appeared to be missing from the shed, the door hinge had been broken.

Eckert says investigators noticed the cord to the camera had been cut, but they are hopeful that visual evidence remains on the hard drive because the receiver to the camera remained intact. The church had property insurance coverage.

Travis Hill, chief deputy with the Pike County Sheriff’s Office, says additional material samples were collected at the site on Thursday and sent to the state crime lab.

“We believe arson might be involved at this time,” Hill told PE News. “Investigators believe information recovered off the hard drive of the camera system and the results of testing of the material will tell us for sure.”

The bivocational Eckert, who is a teacher’s aide at the high school in nearby Murfreesboro, has arranged for the church to meet temporarily in a school cafeteria in Delight. He says other area churches, as well as a funeral home, had offered space for meeting. Pike County has only 11,000 residents.

After the initial shock, Eckert says longtime attendees of Crossroads AG are enthusiastic about the possibility of rebuilding all its facilities under one roof. The kitchen, restrooms, sanctuary, and classrooms all had been added piecemeal before.

“Members have a great sense of optimism about what we will be in a better position to do,” Eckert says. “People believe God has something extra special in store for us and we’ll be able to do greater things than we’ve ever done.”

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