Two church arsons in PBC: Are they connected? - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Two church arsons in PBC: Are they connected?

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By Juan Carlos Fanjul - bio | email

RIVIERA BEACH, FL (WFLX) - The flames in the women's restroom at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church spread so quickly, the entire foyer was charred.

Another blaze was set in the pastoral office, and a third on the altar. But somehow, it didn't spread beyond the pulpit.

That's a miracle for Pastor D. Earl Chandler in the middle of such devastation. "I was totally devastated that someone would break into the church and start fires."

But that's exactly what Riviera Beach police say 25-year-old Roderick Walker did.

After torching the church located on the 1000 block of W. 10th Street, according to authorities, he called 911 himself.

"He confessed to doing it. He was conversating with neighbors while waiting for police and fire to get here," said Pastor Chandler.

As it turns out, the pastor says Walker had broken into the church the night before and stolen a DVD player.

He turned himself in, but cops had no evidence to keep him behind bars until Wednesday when he was charged with burglary.

But that's not all.

Pastor Chandler says investigators are looking to see if the Riviera Beach fire is connected to another Tuesday night church arson in West Palm Beach.

Plywood covers the front door and a window at Moravian Church on the city's north end, the inside is gutted.

For now parishioners at New Hope in Riviera Beach will congregate in the parking lot on Sunday, with hope, not hate on their minds. "Surely, it's in our hearts to forgive, move on, but we want to help. We want to help him," said Rev. Vincent Easley of sister church New Life Baptist.

Parishioners at New Hope have no insurance for their church, and they are looking for help in their clean-up.

If you can help, please call Reverend Chandler at 561-667-3273.

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