LOWNDES CO., Ga. -- Several people are facing charges in the investigation of a fire that destroyed a historic Lowndes County church on Christmas Day, according to Sheriff Chris Prine.
The fire happened around 1 a.m. on December 25. The blaze tore through the Ousley Road Church of God in Christ, which is located at 8619 Ousley Road in western Lowndes County. Firefighters were able to put it out, but the church was heavily damaged as a result.
Since that morning, investigators have worked closely with personnel from the Lowndes County Fire Rescue, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Georgia State Fire Marshall’s Office to identify the cause of the fire.
Officials had their first clue after property was pawned, or sold, at a pawn shot in Valdosta. They discovered the property recovered had been taken from a church in Morven. Officials from Brooks County and Thomas County joined the investigation.
Officials say that so far, it looks like the Oulsey Road Church incident wasn't a hate crime, but a result of actions by Martavius Deshad Davis and Relandall Megal Samuel after burglarizing the church.
Davis and Samuel were arrested. Additional arrest warrants have been issued for Archie Bryant Cone, Kelle Lawrence and Jessica McKeitchen. They are accused of possessing stolen property.
All six suspects have been arrested. However, only Martavius Davis and Jessica McKeitchen have been returned to Lowndes County. Officials say the other suspects are either in the Thomas County Jail or the Brooks County Jail. They will be picked up and returned to Lowndes County in the near future.
Though arrests have been made, Sheriff Prine says this investigation is ongoing. If you have any information about the case, contact investigators at 229-671-2950 or on-line at www.lowndessheriff.com. Anonymous tips can be provided by calling 229-671-2985.