Two men who pleaded guilty to setting a series of fires at churches in East Texas were sentenced to life in prison on Monday.
Nobody was hurt in last year's blazes that damaged or destroyed 10 churches, leading to an investigation that included state and federal arson experts. Two churches were burned down on New Year's Day in Athens, located in Henderson County, and Van Zandt County. Two more churches in Athens, five in Smith County and another in the Van Zandt County city of Wills Point also were burned.
Jason Robert Bourque, 20, pleaded guilty last month to five counts of arson and three counts of attempted arson in connection with the fires in Smith County. Daniel George McAllister, 22, entered guilty pleas to two counts of arson and two counts of attempted arson. Judge Christi Kennedy sentenced the two to life in prison on the arson charges on Monday.
Both men were arrested Feb. 21 of last year.
"For that time period, there was a lot of tension in this East Texas area, as you can well imagine," Tom Crowley, a Dallas-based spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told The Associated Press following the sentencing.
Bourque also was sentence to 20 years for attempted arson, to be served after his life prison term, Crowley said. McAllister also received 20 years for attempted arson, but that sentence will be served at the same time as his life in prison penalty, according to Crowley.
Both men also were ordered to make restitution. No fire damage estimate was immediately available, said Crowley.
Charges could be filed against Bourque and McAllister over fires at churches in Van Zandt and Henderson counties.