Man Who Set Fire to Texas Presbyterian Church Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison

The exterior of St. Stephen Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth, Texas.

A Texas man who set fire to a church and caused nearly $800,000 in damage has been sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Thomas Britton, 56, was convicted of arson and criminal mischief after jurors spent just five minutes in deliberation Thursday, The Associated Press reports.

In January 2017 Britton set fire to St. Stephen Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth. He was identified on church surveillance video after it was released.

Fritz Ritsch, who pastors the congregation, said five fires were set inside the church and several items were destroyed.

At first, investigators said Britton told them that he was not at the church, but he later indicated he was there on a national security mission to meet a potential terrorist. Britton also left graffiti in an attempt to implicate a terrorist group, authorities say.

“He had written something to make it seem like the damage was done by Muslims, but he misspelled Muhammad,” Ritsch said.

“It was disturbing that he was trying to make it seem like it was a terrorist act. It was all very disturbing.”

Prosecutor Vincent Giardino said that his “goal was not just to damage the church, but to obliterate it.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Brandon Showalter