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Man arrested in arson at St. Thomas More Co-Cathedral

Posted at 1:07 PM, Jun 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-10 10:44:25-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — A 32-year-old man has been arrested in connection to an arson at the St. Thomas More Co-Cathedral in Tallahassee.

Seth Johnson, 32, was arrested by the Florida Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations on Friday. He has been charged with one count of first degree arson on a church.

According to arrest documents, investigators found Johnson's fingerprints on a candle and a bottle of hand sanitizer inside the church after they processed evidence from the scene.

Through the investigation, officers determined that Johnson came into the church between 3:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. through unlocked doors, grabbed the large jug of hand sanitizer from a table and moved it to the podium on the center stage. He then started a fire on the chairs at the back of the stage, which burned the cushions and began burning the wood paneling on the wall and frames of the chairs.

Documents say he also moved a brass ring from the top of a ceremonial candle and placed it on the stand before lighting the candle.

When police located Johnson at the Kearney Center a day after the fire on June 6, he denied ever being at the church even after he was shown a picture. Based on the evidence, however, Johnson was arrested and charged with arson to a church.

Authorities are investigating an arson at the St. Thomas More Co-Cathedral in Tallahassee.

According to the office of Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, a fire broke out at the church Wednesday night.

State authorities say initial arson investigations determined that the fire appears to have been intentionally started.

Church officials say the cathedra and presiders’ chairs were set on fire and destroyed. The walls of the sanctuary are also charred and there is smoke damage. Thankfully, however, no injuries have been reported at this time.

The scene is still under investigation and being worked jointly by BFAEI, TPD and ATF.

“I am saddened to hear of an apparently intentional fire set at the St. Thomas More Co-Cathedral in Tallahassee yesterday. My arson detectives responded immediately to assist local authorities in determining the cause," said CFO Jimmy Patronis. "Arson is a costly and dangerous crime, and my arson detectives will continue to assist authorities in any way to bring those responsible to justice.”

The church also posted a statement to their website Thursday afternoon saying in part:

"We at the Co-Cathedral would like to thank everyone for their prayers in this difficult time. Please continue to pray for our priests, our parish family, and all those working to ensure we are able to celebrate our weekend masses in the church. We are hurt, upset, and deeply saddened, but we continue to place out hope in Christ during this Easter season in which we celebrate His resurrection."