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Cochran Church Fire Ruled Arson | Crime

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Cochran Church Fire Ruled Arson
Crime

A Sunday-morning church fire in Cochran has been ruled arson, according to Glenn Allen of the state fire marshal's office.

He said they're offering a reward of up to $10,000 for tips in the fire at St. James AME Church.

People with information on the case can call the state arson hotline at 1-800-282-5804.

The fire consumed the church, leaving members picking up the pieces Sunday.

You have to drive down two dirt roads to get to St. James AME church. It was the home of about 21 members. 

Because of its isolated location, members say it's been a long-time target of theft.

"We know that in the past, people have broken in and stolen the air conditioning units to sell," says Gerald Harris, the pastor of the church for the last five years.

Since then, those units have been locked up but church members say thieves tried to strike again, failed, and set the sanctuary on fire.

"This is the ultimate. There's nothing you can do now. Maybe we should've known it was leading up to that, but we didn't. It was quite a shock," says member Sarah Dennard.

"The spirits tell me the young peoples do it, not the old 70-80-year-olds," says Sylemon Rozier. 

This loss was perhaps hardest for 83-year-old Rozier, who rose the ranks to become mother of the church.

"That means to see everyone doing their jobs, their responsibility. And if they don't, put them in place," she explains about being mother of the church.

"This place right here has a lot of family history. To see it like this, it's devastating," says Harris.

A bank account will be set up for the church to take in donations at the Citizens' Bank of Cochran.

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