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Task Force to Probe Greenville Church Fires

Posted January 15, 2007

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— Greenville police have teamed up with the FBI to investigate fires that broke out at two Baptist churches and a break-in at a third -- all within an hour this weekend.

The task force will also include members of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the State Bureau of Investigation, the Greenville Fire Department and the Pitt County Sheriff's Department, said police spokesman Cpl. Kip Gaskins.

The speed of the first fire at The Memorial Baptist Church led investigators to treat both fires Saturday night as crime scenes, fire Chief Mike Burton said. Damage at Memorial was estimated at $1 million.

Investigators said someone also slashed the tires of several vehicles in the church parking lot.

The fire at Unity Free Will Baptist Church, about a mile away from The Memorial, was contained to a single room and damage was estimated at $30,000 to $40,000.

Burned items from the churches were sent to a crime lab for analysis, Gaskins said, and right now, investigators are treating the fires as suspected arson.

Police were also investigating a break-in at Oakmont Baptist Church, less than three-quarters of a mile from The Memorial, Gaskins said.

The task force will meet regularly to discuss the case, he said.

Anyone with information about the case, is asked to contact Pitt-Greenville Crime Stoppers at 919-758-7777.
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