Officials: Suspect used hand sanitizer to start church fire

By: Fletcher Keel | WCTV Eyewitness News
June 10, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Newly released arrest documents say the suspect started last week's fire at the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More using hand sanitizer and a church candle.

Officials say 32-year-old Seth Johnson entered the church sanctuary between 3:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Wednesday, June 5, through unlocked doors.

Johnson grabbed a large bottle of hand sanitizer from the north entrance and moved it to the podium on center stage.

He started the fire on the chairs on the rear of the stage, which consumed the cushions of the four chairs and began to burn the wood paneling on the wall behind the chairs, as well as the frames of the chairs, according to the arrest report.

Investigators say before starting the fire, Johnson moved a brass ring from on top of the ceremonial candle and placed it on the stand.

The arrest report says the brass ring and candle, which normally aren't handled, were analyzed for fingerprints.

Four fingerprints taken from those items were entered into a computer database, leading to Johnson's arrest.

Officials say Johnson was located on June 7 at the Kearney Center, where he was briefly interviewed and denied ever being at the church.

He was arrested at the Kearney center.


By: Fletcher Keel | WCTV Eyewitness News
June 7, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Florida Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis has announced the arrest of 32-year-old Seth Johnson in connection with Wednesday's fire at the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More.

“I’m thankful no one was injured and a suspect is in police custody giving some peace to all who call St. Thomas More their place of worship. This arrest would not have been possible without the great investigative work by my arson detectives and the Tallahassee Police Department law enforcement officers," Patronis said.

Officials said earlier this week they were investigating the fire as an arson. The fire caused major damage in the church's sanctuary.

Investigators say fingerprints from evidence found at the scene matched Johnson.

Authorities say Johnson was placed into custody and taken to the Tallahassee Police Department for questioning.

Johnson has been booked into the Leon County Jail and has been charged with arson.



 
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