Va. Church Arsonist Sentenced to Eight Years

June 30, 2013
Paul Cupp was convicted of setting a fire at Hildebrand Mennonite Church in 2011.

June 29--A Crimora man convicted of setting fire to an Augusta County Church two years ago was sentenced to 8 years in prison Friday in Augusta County Circuit Court.

Paul Cupp was convicted of arson of an unoccupied dwelling last September. The conviction stemmed from the Oct. 2011 fire that burned part of an exterior vinyl wall at Hildebrand Mennonite Church near Hermitage.

During last year's trial, defense witnesses testified that they talked to Cupp on the telephone or saw him on the night at about the same time the fire happened at the church.

The prosecution evidence evidence included a witness who identified Cupp as the man driving a white Toyota pickup truck at Hildrebrand Mennonite the night and time of the fire.

A plastic bottle that functioned as an incendiary device was found at the church along with a rag and a package of Pall Mall menthol cigarettes. A similar plastic bottle was found at Cupp's home, along with similar rags in a truck and at his residence. A state police investigator also noted that Cupp smoked the same Pall Mall menthol cigarettes when he was interviewed.

Cupp's defense attorney raised the question of how many Toyota pickup trucks might be in Augusta County and how many rags like the one found at the crime scene and at Cupp's home might be purchased in a large retail store.

Copyright 2013 - The News Virginian, Waynesboro, Va.

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