Church members finally got their day in court

By Jena Johnson - bio | email
Posted by Elizabeth Thomas – email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) – Church members finally got their day in court as the two men who admitted to burning down several East Texas churches learned what their punishment would be on Monday.

Jason Bourque, 20, received five life sentences and three 20-year sentences.

His accomplice, Daniel McAllister got two life sentences and two 20-year sentences.

For the first time, church members spoke directly to Bourque and McAllister.

"There was a gentleman in the bible and his name was Saul, he persecuted the churches way more than what y'all have done. He really persecuted the churches. Y'all simply burnt buildings," said David Martin.

Martin is a member of Pinebrook Baptist Church, one of the churches that Bourque and McAllister attempted to burn.

As Martin seeks justice, he asked the two men to seek god, "He'll forgive you and he'll use you in a mighty way. I come today to give you hope."

For Bourque's mother, Kimberly, hope for her son's future dwindled as each life sentence was as handed down.

"It's unbelievable and hard to understand and hard to grasp. This is a harsh sentence...a very harsh sentence," expressed Kimberly.

For members of Clearview Baptist Church, it's what came after the flames that was the most difficult to accept.

"When the attorneys came to the members of the churches and began to talk about the punishment phase and things like that it was hard because justice is important," says Clearview Baptist member Dwight Lawson.

The arsonists have given no motive for their crimes.

Bourque's grandmother offered this explanation," it was the Chantix. The Chantix. He said it put him in like a trance."

Bourque will serve at least twenty years, McAllister at least fifteen. But, prosecutors say the odds of them getting out soon are very low.

Kimberly says she used hand signals to tell her son she loves him, because deputies wouldn't let her touch him.

Martin offered up some comforting parting words for the two men, "We forgive you."

Now church members are asking the arsonists to forgive themselves.

Meanwhile, more cases are being built against the men in connection with church fires in Van Zandt and Henderson counties.

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