Governor Tours Church Fire Scenes; Investigators Uncover Clues

Governor Riley toured the damage Saturday.
Governor Riley toured the damage Saturday.
More than 100 agents are working the case.
More than 100 agents are working the case.

The sting hasn't worn off. One day later, the Bibb County community is still trying to process a deed so ugly. Five churches were scorched, three of them completely burned to the ground, and the person or people responsible were still at large.

Governor Bob Riley says, "We're going to do everything we can to bring these people to justice."

The governor toured the active crime scenes, putting more pressure on the investigation. More than a hundred local, state, and federal agents combed the ruins to collect evidence.

"Everybody is cooperating together to make this a success and I feel like we will be able to make this a success," said State Fire Marshall Richard Montgomery.

Very few details about preliminary findings are being released, but investigators are trying hard to bring an end to misleading speculation. For example, nothing uncovered so far suggests the fires were hate crimes, motivated by race or denomination.

"I don't believe the denomination of the church has anything to do with the investigation," said ATF Special Agent-in-Charge Larry Cooper. "It could have been a Catholic church. It could have been Presbyterian."

It's believed authorities do have a suspect vehicle. They may be looking for a black SUV, which was last seen at a gas station near one of the churches

The fires were set between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. Friday morning. Evidence suggests that the arsonist(s) knew the area well since all five churches were not on major roads.

Some of the most revealing details were left behind in the two churches that suffered only minor burns. In both cases, plastic flowers on the alters were ignited.

Investigators were expected to continue their search for evidence Sunday and possibly Monday.

Governor Riley and the ATF are collectively offering a $10,000 dollar reward for information. The ATF Tip Line is 1-877-628-2533.

Reporter: Theo Travers