SBI determines blaze at church deliberately set

Published 9:34 pm Friday, August 31, 2007

By Staff
No suspects, but police pursue leads
Staff Writer
A fire that caused more than $100,000 in damage to Mount Olive Pentecostal Faith Church in Belhaven on Sunday was arson, according to the State Bureau of Investigation.
On Thursday, the Belhaven Police Department announced the SBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms determined the fire that damaged the church on Elm Street was intentionally set. As of Thursday evening, police had no suspect or suspects in the incident.
Anyone with information about the fire should call law-enforcement officials, Hopkins said.
Amos Wilson, the church’s pastor, said he could not fathom that someone would intentionally set the fire that damaged the church Sunday night.
On Thursday, Wilson said he did not expect to learn the fire was purposely set.
Asked if the incident could be gang-related, Hopkins said, “I don’t think so, but I’m not ruling anything out.”
Prior to the fire, Wilson said, he had an “altercation” with a man.
The Saturday morning before the fire, Wilson’s wife found a dead snake by the church’s front door.
The pastor hopes the person responsible for the fire will be punished.
Belhaven resident Rosa Swindell, 87, has been a member of the church for many years. “I’m praying and trying to figure it out,” she said Thursday. “I hardly know what to say. It’s like a dream right now.”
She said the church could be repaired and restored with the help of donations.
Wilson said the church’s congregation will continue to conduct a worship service from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Sunday at the C.O. Boyette Civic Center on West Pungo Street in Belhaven.
Contributions to help rebuild the church may be sent to Southern Bank, c/o Earline Webb, P.O. Box 87, Belhaven, NC 27810.
Anyone with information about the fire may contact the Belhaven Police Department at 943-2242 or Beaufort County Crime Stoppers at 974-6400. Crime Stoppers will pay up to a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. Callers may remain anonymous.