- Associated Press - Friday, February 17, 2017

BONNERS FERRY, Idaho (AP) - A 33-year-old northern Idaho man authorities say set fire to a Catholic church has been taken into custody.

Shane Rucker of Bonners Ferry was arrested Thursday after a federal grand jury indicted him for destruction of religious property and using fire to damage or destroy religious property, The Spokesman-Review reported (https://bit.ly/2lT1zDc).

St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Bonners Ferry was destroyed in an April blaze.

Rucker is being prosecuted under the Church Arson Prevention Act, a 1996 law passed in response to numerous fires set at black churches in the South.

“As a priest I feel compassion for that guy,” Rev. Carlos Perez said. “I think he has to pay for his mistake.”



Authorities have not released information about a possible motive.

St. Ann’s congregation of about 150 families is currently meeting in three trailers pushed together, Perez said. The church received $1.8 million from its insurance policy, but it is raising funds to cover the rest of the estimated $2.5 million cost to rebuild.

“Really we need the church badly,” he said. “We need the space for religious education, our meetings and worship. The trailer is good but not great.”

Perez is from Colombia, and some of the parishioners at the church are Hispanic, the Spokesman-Review reports.

Investigators say the fire started in three places in the church’s basement. The fire occurred less than two months after St. Ann’s and Trinity Lutheran Church were vandalized.

Virtually everything was lost to the flames, but a few relics survived and will be incorporated into the new church. They include a large cross in stained glass from the choir loft, a ceramic image of the Blessed Mother and another window of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Also, a metal cross atop the church, which crumpled to the ground as firefighters doused hot spots on the church, was salvaged and will find a home in the new church.

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Information from: The Spokesman-Review, https://www.spokesman.com

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