Kansas City Church Maintenance Worker Admits to Setting Fire and Painting Racist Graffiti On Building to Cover Up Robbery

Nathaniel D. Nelson pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to setting fire inside of a church office. (Missouri Department of Corrections)
Nathaniel D. Nelson pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to setting fire inside of a church office. (Missouri Department of Corrections)

A former maintenance worker at a predominantly black south Kansas City church admitted in U.S. District on Friday that he spray-painted racist graffiti on the front entrance and then set a fire to cover up a theft.

Nathaniel D. Nelson, 49, was accused of setting the fire in an office of the Concord Cultural Center, adjacent to the Concord Fortress of Hope Church, where he was also a member.

Prosecutors said Nelson admitted to stealing money from inside the cultural center to buy crack cocaine. Nelson, who is black, said he had spray-painted the graffiti and set the fire in an attempt to throw off investigators.

Fire crews responded to the fire early Oct. 29, 2017, but a sprinkler had extinguished it before they arrived. Investigators determined that an office chair and other combustibles had been intentionally set on fire. The church’s insurance company paid out more than $330,000.

Congregants were greeted that morning with a racial slur, the letters “KKK” and a symbol similar to a swastika on the main entrance.

Nelson was captured on a video inside the foyer just before he unplugged the surveillance system, according to prosecutors. But he was unaware of a second system, which recorded video of him outside spray-painting the graffiti.

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SOURCE: GLENN E. RICE
The Kansas City Star