Arrests Made in Alabama Church Fires

In February, nine different churches in rural Alabama were intentionally set on fire. Wednesday, Federal authorities made three arrests. All are college students

It was a joke that went terribly wrong. That's what three suspects arrested for setting fire to nine churches in Alabama are said to be claiming.

Nineteen years old, Ben Moseley and Russell Debusk Jr. were picked up in their dorm rooms at Birmingham-Southern College. They were brought to the Birgmingham Federal Courthouse this morning and are being held on arson charges. A third suspect, Matthew Cloyd was arrested later in the day.

Police believe the men went on something of a joyride. Driving around and setting the churches ablaze. Later setting separate fires in the western part of the state as a diversion, to lead the police astray.

Authorities do not think race was an issue since these churches consisted of both black and white congregations. All the churches were Baptist, and the fires were all believed to be set on the alter. Other than that, there doesn't seem to be any sort of pattern.

All told, five of the churches were completely destroyed and four were damaged. There have been reports that tire tracks left at the scene gave police the evidence they needed.

A 10th church fire has been ruled arson but is not believed to be connected. Michael Weber

Prosecutors said the case against the three will go to a federal grand jury. No date was given as to when that might happen.