Man Charged with Arson in Church and House Fires in Tennessee

SPARTA, Tenn. (AP) -- Police have charged a Sparta man with arson and burglary in a string of seven fires that damaged two churches and five vacant houses in one neighborhood last week.

James Henry Dibrell, 47, was charged with seven counts of arson and seven counts of burglary and is being held in the White County jail, Sparta Police Chief Jeff Guth said Tuesday.

''It's a relief to be able to get some sort of closure to this so quickly,'' Guth said of the arson spree which shocked the small town of 5,000 people about 75 miles southeast of Nashville.

The investigation is continuing, which includes trying to determine if there are other suspects, he said.

The fires started just before 5 a.m. on Friday and destroyed the Roberts Street Church of Christ. Nearby Kynette United Methodist Church was severely damaged. The five vacant houses were less badly damaged.

No one was injured.

Both of the churches serve black congregations but authorities say race is not a factor in the arsons. The suspect also is black.

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