Watches & Warnings Warnings

Sketches released of three persons of interest in East Texas church fires

POSTED: Friday, February 12, 2010 - 8:34pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 - 12:43pm

Authorities need your help finding the men

TYLER - Federal arson investigators say they're seeking three white men in connection with 10 church fires in east and central Texas.

Sketches of the ''persons of interest'' were released Friday by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives officials. ATF spokesman Tom Crowley told KETK-TV that authorities want to interview them.

Nine fires at east Texas churches have been ruled arsons this year, including two Monday in Smith County.

ATF officials say another fire, in Temple, 120 miles south of Dallas, also was arson.

The sketches depict two short-haired men — one with a flame-like tattoo on his neck, the other with an inverted cross on his left forearm and elbow. A third man has longer hair.

ATF officials say the tips came from people in the public and now they want your help in finding the men.

Investigators are not saying much about them but sources tell us two of the men may have been seen at the same time at various churches.

It's also quite possible they did their homework. The churches targeted did not have alarm systems and many were in rural communities, leading some to think they researched the churches before striking. However, investigators said they are not quite sure if the culprits were trying to cover up vandalism, burglary or targeting the churches out of spite.

There is no clear theme linking the fires, which have struck churches of different denominations, including Baptist, Methodist and Church of Christ Scientist, on different days of the week and at different times of the day. While the churches are located in small towns, not all of them are in remote locations.

There is a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the persons responsible. The ATF can be contacted at 1-888-ATF-FIRE or 903-675-0061 and 903-675-0062 with clues or information regarding the crimes.

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