“It has become a crime scene now.”
Words that should never be spoken about a church are now what leave Pastor Mike Smith heartbroken.
The Fincastle Church of God fire was deemed arson last week.
A determination that the fire was a crime was made within a week of the investigation beginning.
“Tennessee Bomb and Arson came out and collected evidence. Once they did some work at the scene, it became obvious it was arson,” said Campbell County Sheriff Robbie Goins.
In the wake of the discovery a $2,000 reward has been offered for any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of a suspect.
The CCSD is currently investigating all leads. On Monday, Goins dedicated detectives to following the leads that do come in.
“We will continue until we find the person or persons responsible for this crime,” the sheriff said.
Discovering that the fire had not been accidental was something Smith wasn’t prepared for. “It really did shock me,” he said. “It made me sick at my stomach.”
Given that the building and surrounding area at Fincastle has been deemed a crime scene, the people who are the Fincastle Church of God have relocated their services.
On Sunday 125 gathered at the Christian Academy of Campbell County.
“There was a good spirit there. There was hope,” Smith said.
Earlier in the week, Smith and others had been able to open the safe that once sat in his office. Inside the safe were membership records, marriage records, baptismal certificates and other important church papers.
After sitting in two feet of water and the lock melting, Smith was concerned about the safe’s contents. Being able to retrieve those records again brought him hope.
Until the area is cleared by authorities and cleaned Fincastle Church of God will not have services in the area the church called home. However, Smith is hopeful by the first of the year they will return and have services in the fellowship hall.
“This has been hard to wrap your mind around,” said Goins. “It is hard to imagine someone could do that to a house of worship.”
“This is the kind of case that keeps you up at night,” said CCSD Chief Deputy Aaron Evans.
While the church did have insurance, the claim is being processed differently since the fire was deemed arson, Smith said. Those wanting to contribute to helping the church rebuild can make donations at Community Trust Bank.