Pastor Charged with Setting Church Fire in South Carolina

SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (AP) -- A pastor and his wife have been charged with arson in a fire that gutted their church last week, authorities said Tuesday.

The Monday arrests of The Rev. Harold Hunter and Patricia Hunter came just one day after the pastor gave a sermon in which he said he prayed for the ''sick, sadistic'' person who burned down the church. No one was hurt in the blaze.

Police would not discuss a possible motive, but said they had suspected that Thursday's fire and three earlier acts of vandalism at the 64-year-old Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church were an inside job.

''We found some gas that was located on the pastor's shoes and we also found clothing in the residence that had gasoline on it,'' said Summerville Police Capt. Craig Legates.

Hunter, 55, who had been pastor for three years, had dreams of building a new church but no solid plans, said Ruthmae Whitney, a member of the church for 40 years.

During services Sunday, which were held at another church, Hunter had urged parishioners not to talk to the police, saying authorities were looking for suspects and some church members were ''spreading gossip'' and ''telling lies.''

Summerville is about 25 miles northwest of Charleston.