|26-year-old Patrick Ehat, arrested for church fires (from the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office)|
[Ed. Note: Note the similarity between the photo above and this MySpace photo of a person identified as Patrick Ehat of Provo.]
Two chapels of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints caught fire during the early morning hours of October 30th, 2010, and arson is suspected in both cases. This post combines and summarizes highlights from the Deseret News, the Salt Lake Tribune, KTVX Channel 4, KSTU Channel 13, and KSL Channel 5 (news video embedded below).
The first and most devastating fire was reported around 3:30 A.M. at the chapel located at 3219 S. 300 East. Fueling suspicion of arson is the fact that a brick was found thrown through a window in the chapel at the point of the fire's origin. About 30 firefighters responded to the two-alarm fire, which is estimated to have caused at least $300,000 to $400,000 damage. The chapel is destroyed, and the remainder of the building incurred smoke and water damage. However, Salt Lake Granite Park Stake President David Moore believes the building is still structurally sound and can be repaired. Two congregations, the Miller Ward and the Granite Ward (Spanish), have been displaced; a total of 450 people are affected. This chapel lies within the boundaries of the Salt Lake Granite Park Stake (the media erroneously reported it as the Salt Lake Granite Stake, a separate entity).
The second fire was reported at 6:48 A.M. at an LDS chapel at 2702 South Main. South Salt Lake Police confirmed there was forced entry at that building as well. Damage there is less extensive, primarily consisting of smoke and water damage. South Salt Lake Stake President David Young says the building will need a thorough cleaning. Three congregations, the Southgate Ward, the Burton Ward (Spanish), and the Madison Ward, have been displaced; a total of 700 people have been affected. This chapel lies within the boundaries of the South Salt Lake Stake.
A third South Salt Lake fire was reported at 7:12 A.M. in a vacant home at 2983 S. 500 East. The home’s garage was found engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. Police say it's premature to assume that all three fires are connected.
Update October 31st: Twenty-six-year-old Patrick Ehat of Salt Lake City was arrested by South Salt Lake Police at 2:30 A.M. on Sunday October 31st — about 23 hours after the first church fire was reported. Ehat not only had injuries consistent with climbing through a broken window, but police also say Ehat admitted to starting the fires; KUTV further reports that Ehat turned to arson because he was angry with the church, but not because of Boyd K. Packer's General Conference speech. He was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of two counts of arson, two counts of criminal mischief, and two counts of burglary — all felonies. Ehat is not being charged with the separate house fire.
KSTU Channel 13 reported that Ehat had been excommunicated from the LDS Church, but subsequent reports show that he is still a member.
South Salt Lake police and fire officials said they remain on "high alert" after Saturday's fires. They ask that anyone with information contact the South Salt Lake Police Department at 801-840-4000.