2 counties down, 1 to go for church arsonists - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

2 counties down, 1 to go for church arsonists

By Layron Livingston - bio | email

HENDERSON COUNTY, TX (KLTV) – Two East Texas church arsonists entered even more guilty pleas in Henderson County court on Tuesday afternoon.

Jason Bourque and Daniel McAllister were sentenced to life in prison just moments after owning up to three Henderson County church fires.

Interestingly, it all come one year, to the day, after the last two fires started at Dover and Clear Springs Baptist in Smith County, sparking a massive tri-county investigation.

Both men arrived together. They walked into court together. But once inside the Henderson County Judicial complex, they faced the judge separately.

Jason Bourque is sentenced to three life sentences.

Authorities say he set fires to Faith Church in Athens, Grace Community Church, and Lake Athens Baptist.

The court sentenced Daniel McAllister to two life sentences for his involvement in fires at Lake Athens and Grace Community.

Henderson County District Attorney Scott McKee says the plea agreement allows both men to serve out their time, concurrently, and at the same time as their previous Smith County convictions.

"It was fair and justice was served," says McKee.

McKee has had nearly an entire year to build his case, "finger print evidence, DNA, stolen merchandise evidence…"

"I think Daniel really needed the closure. Just like the individuals from the churches needed closure," says Brent Ratekin, McAllister's Attorney.

Leon Wallace pastors Faith Church in Athens, one of the first to burn on New Year's Day, a year ago.

"I do pray that when they're incarcerated, they do find the mercy and forgiveness that Jesus Christ does have, and I pray that they can rebuild their lives even behind those walls," expressed Wallace.

The two still face even more charges in Van Zandt County.

Evidence links Bourque and McAllister to the fire at Russell United Methodist Church in Wills Point.

Authorities say Bourque acted alone in burning down Little Hope Baptist near Canton, the very first church to burn.

"It's fitting, it all started in Van Zandt County, and it's going to end in Van Zandt County," says Chris Martin, Van Zandt County District Attorney.

The men are expected to make similar pleas there.

As part of Tuesday's plea agreement and sentence, Bourque and McAllister will get credit for the 353 days they've spent in jail already.

They're scheduled to appear before a Van Zandt County Judge on Friday afternoon.

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