Jason Robert Bourque, 19, from Lindale, Texas, and Daniel George McAllister, 21, of Ben Wheeler, Texas, were arrested Sunday and charged with one count each of arson for the burning of Dover Baptist Church, near Tyler, Texas. Arson of a church is a first-degree felony and carries a possible sentence of from 5 years to 99 years in prison.
Authorities also believe that these two carried out all ten of the fires in East Texas. A 200-member group, the East Texas Arson Task Force, have accumulated considerable evidence against these two individuals that tends to incriminate them. Authorities have shoe prints, surveillance video and even a confession from McAllister, after his arrest in San Antonio.
One thing the task force does not have is a motive. Texas Ranger Brent Davis said: “You would think that we’d be able to figure out why someone would want to do this. We have nothing, no motive whatsoever.” (Dallas Morning News-2 suspects, 10 fires, but ‘no motive whatsoever’ in East Texas church arsons by Lee Hancock-Feb. 23, 2010)
Bourque and McAllister did both attend the First Baptist Church in Ben Wheeler, McAllister’s home town. At the arraignment on Monday, the judge asked Daniel George McAllister if he had an attorney. He said he couldn’t afford a lawyer. When asked if his family might help, he replied, “No, they all hate me.” (Dallas Morning News-ditto)
Jason Robert Bourque is even more baffling, since he appears to have been a good student, an athlete and was attending the University of Texas-Tyler as a business major. One odd thing, however, is on his Facebook page he says that he is a fan of bonfires. His religion is listed as “Christian-other” and he quotes from Friedrich Nietzsche, who certainly was not a Christian.
Moreover, I learned from the Dallas Morning News that the two friends had broken into the First Baptist Church in Ben Wheeler a long time ago. The pastor’s wife actually saw them breaking into their church. David McAllister, Daniel’s father, has concerns that the church never reported this break-in to the police. “That might’ve stopped it before a lot of churches burned down,” he said.
So it looks like this pair forged a criminal partnership at a very early age. Why did they become serial arsonists of small churches right at the first of this year? The first fires were on Jan. 1st, and were the Little Hope Baptist in Canton and the Faith Baptist Church in Athens. The last ones (on Feb. 8th) were the Dover Baptist Church in Tyler and the Clear Springs Missionary Baptist in Lindale, which both yielded a great amount of evidence.
The arsonists had kicked in the back door of the Dover Baptist Church and a footprint was taken off the door. Apparently it was from a Red Wing boot and relatives had told authorities that McAllister had such a pair of boots. The ATF was able to trace some shoe prints of Sketcher tennis shoes to Bourque’s home. The muddy shoes were in the garage.
Video surveillance footage from an R. Tiger Express Exxon at Texas Highway 110 and Interstate 20 shows both of the suspects inside the store right near the time of the Dover Church fire. The same night a fire was set at the Clear Spring Missionary Baptist Church in Lindale. Bourque is seen on video from a convenience store in the timeframe of that fire. (Tyler Morning Telegraph-Shoe prints, video, informant lead authorities to arson suspects by Kenneth Dean-Feb. 22, 2010)
One will need to review all of these 10 cases of church arson to see exactly what happened here. A sigh of relief is coming from many of the pastors of these small churches, after six weeks of nightmarish hell in East Texas.
A Tyland Baptist Church member, Juanita Wiggins, asks the question, “What’s in their heart that makes them want to do something like this, why did they point at churches, what is it about a church that they felt the need to destroy?”
Obviously, these two young serial-arsonists had malice in their hearts for ‘fundamentalist religion.’ The question is why? I sense that the combination of personalities played a role. Jason and Daniel just brought out the worst in each other. This is what happened with the Columbine killers also. But this will be a challenge for criminal psychologists. Answers as to their motives are greatly needed.