Two Men Charged With Arson, Burglary in Alabama Fire That Damaged Baptist Church

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Two men accused of breaking into a rural church and setting it ablaze last month were arrested on arson and burglary charges, authorities said Thursday.

Billy Ray and Brian Henry, both 31, were charged in a fire that heavily damaged Providence Baptist Church in northern Chilton County on Jan. 12.

"This investigation is by no means over," said State Fire Marshal Ed Paulk. "In fact, we anticipate that further arrests will be made."

The men were held in the Chilton County jail, awaiting a bond hearing, and records did not indicate whether they had lawyers.

Investigators are still trying to determine whether the blaze was linked to a suspicious fire that destroyed another Chilton County church on Dec. 29.

"We're working as hard as we can to bring closure to these churches and to bring those responsible to justice," said Sheriff Kevin Davis.

Church arson cases have been widely reported in Alabama in recent years.

Two men, described by authorities as Satan worshippers, were arrested Jan. 6 in a string of arsons and burglaries at four churches in eastern Alabama around the new year. The men pleaded not guilty, and agents have ruled out any connection between those cases and the Chilton County fires.

Nine church arsons in February 2006, including five in Bibb County, which is adjacent to Chilton County, led to the arrest of three young men who were Birmingham college students at the time. They are now serving federal prison terms ranging from eight to seven years, with two-year state prison terms to follow.