Second Fire Set At Church In Newport News, Virginia

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) -- Police arrested a teenager Tuesday evening and charged him with setting a fire discovered earlier in the day at Denbigh Presbyterian Church.

The 15-year-old was arrested at his home in the Denbigh area and charged with burglary, arson, petty larceny and destruction of property, Police Department spokesman Harold Eley said. He was held in juvenile detention pending arraignment.

The youth had been questioned by police at 10:45 p.m. Monday in connection with a larceny at a convenience store, Eley said. He was released to his parents' custody.

The fire at the church was the second in two months. Eley said the youth was not charged in the June 14 fire, but was being questioned in that case.

After discovering hallways layered with soot Tuesday morning, church leaders scrambled to find another location for the Vacation Bible School program in its second day.

Firefighters summoned by the church secretary arrived shortly before 8 a.m. and found the fire had extinguished itself. They worked to remove smoke from the building, said Battalion Chief David Layman.

Eley said someone broke a window in the southwest corner of the church to get inside. He had no information about how the blaze was started.

Eley said he didn't know whether religious articles were targeted in the fire, but wall hangings were ignited.

A ``Lava Lava Island'' Vacation Bible School banner was one of several items reduced to ashes.

``They torched the sign,'' said Denise Shambaugh, assistant director of the Bible school. ``We've spent months and months preparing for this. It's heartbreaking.''

Like the previous fire, Tuesday's blaze caused damage of several thousand dollars.

On June 14, someone broke into the church, setting a fire in an office and damaging pictures of former Denbigh Presbyterian ministers.

The Rev. Deborah Dail said she's uncertain if Sunday services can be held at the church, but the congregation's 400 members ``will be worshipping somewhere Sunday.''