Local News

Cumberland Church Burning May Have Been Arson

Posted May 29, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— When you think of your church or synagogue, you probably think of someplace sacred and immune from evil. An arsonist in Cumberland County is shaking the faith of the Genesis Free Will Baptist congregation. Their church building has been burned to the ground. Investigators now say they have good reason to suspect arson.

It's a scene fire investigators have become all too familiar with-- church buildings catching fire. Now a Cumberland County church is trying to put the pieces of it's history back together.

The fire is devastating to church member Gene Boehning. "It's an old building, but still it's church property," he says. "It's a shame that people destroy our church property."

The people of Genesis Free Will Baptist Church first started worshiping more than a decade ago. Last year they moved to a different building and since have just used it to store important papers. That alone is cause enough for suspicion. But there's more.

Investigators discovered the door of the church had been kicked in and that's what made them suspicious of the fire in the church's old storage building.

Pastor Al Markuson says he's never had racial problems in his congregation despite the 30 or so ethnic groups represented by church members.

There are Just a lot of heavy hearts this morning at the loss of this facility and curiousity as to who would have wanted to destroy the sacred building.

Right now investigators won't get specific on exactly how the fire started. They're still questioning several people and following up on several leads.

Terri Gruca reporting