Second man pleads guilty in connection with church fire

A second New Sarpy man has pleaded guilty in connection with a theft that started a fire and destroyed the River of Life Christian Fellowship Church last October.

Jerry Cotton, 58, pleaded guilty to an amended charge of criminal damage under $500. His six-month sentence was suspended and he was placed on misdemeanor probation for a year. Cotton must also complete 100 hours of community service.

Authorities say that the fire began when Mark Bailey and Cotton attempted to steal scrap metal off of a trailer behind the church. Bailey, who authorities say used a blowtorch during the theft, was sentenced last month to two years in jail after pleading guilty to simple burglary of a religious building and simple arson. All but five months of his sentence were suspended. Bailey was also placed on active probation for five years and must perform 250 hours of community service.

During the investigation of the fire, police say they located some stolen property from the church in the two men’s homes.

The fire occurred at about 8 p.m. on Oct. 3 and by the time it was put out, flames and damage had spread to every room of the church.

Pastor Curtis Stacey said that the storage trailer was going to be removed the next day and that the church staff was in the process of moving everything out of it. He said that somehow the two men found out that the trailer was going to be removed and decided to try to salvage materials from it.

Authorities believe that a blowtorch caused a fire in the trailer, which jumped to the nearby church building.


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