Two men in their 20s or 30s are believed to be responsible for a recent string of church fires in Alabama, investigators said Sunday as authorities confirmed the latest blaze at Beaverton Freewill Baptist Church was the result of arson.
"They're not youths or teens. It's probably someone in their 20s or 30s," said Eric Kehn, a spokesman for the federal Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agency. "They're pretty much inseparable. They're something like bosom buddies."
Since Feb. 2, ten Baptist churches in rural Alabama have fallen victim to fires, with the latest having been struck Saturday night near the Mississippi line. In the first series of fires, three churches – Rehobeth Baptist Church in Randolph, Ashby Baptist Church in Brierfield and Pleasant Sabine Baptist Church in Centreville – were burned to the ground, while two churches – Antioch Baptist Church in Centreville and Old Union Baptist near Randolph – were damaged by fire.
The second set of fires, which hit early last week, damaged Dancy First Baptist Church near Aliceville and Spring Valley Baptist Church near Emelle and destroyed Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church near Boligee and Gallilee Baptist in Panola.
Last week, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley said the first nine church fires appeared linked. Fire marshals are currently investigating whether the Saturday blaze was linked to the other nine.
According to state fire marshal spokesman Ragan Ingram, the tenth blaze was "definitely arson."
Kehn, meanwhile, said witness reports and behavioral profilers led authorities to believe that two white men were responsible for the fires. Witnesses said they saw two men in a sport utility vehicle near a number of the fires.
There is no racial pattern in the attacks, however, as five of the churches had white congregations, and five, black.
Investigators have said they don't know a motive.