3rd man charged in arson

WINDER - A three-year investigation into the torching of a Winder church has netted a third arrest, authorities said Tuesday.

Bruce Edward Smith, 47, of Monroe, is charged with arson, conspiracy to commit a crime and vandalism to a place of worship in the December 2005 fire that damaged New Life Deliverance Church.

Smith posted bond Thursday and was released from the Barrow County Detention Center, said Sheriff's Office spokesman Maj. Todd Druse

Last week, police arrested the church's former pastor, Quincy Arnold, 49, of Lawrenceville, on similar charges. That arrest came two weeks after Arnold's son, Maurice Arnold, 24, of Dacula, was charged in connection with the same blaze.

Both men are free on bond. The elder Arnold faces an additional charge of insurance fraud.

Police haven't said what evidence allegedly links the three suspects to the crime.

The incident has been jointly investigated by the Sheriff's Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Officials have interviewed multiple witnesses in the intervening years, gathered evidence beyond what was at the scene and even conducted surveillance operations, an investigator said.

At the time, officials said an arsonist somehow entered the Apostolic church in the predawn hours of Dec. 7, poured gasoline down the center aisle of the church's sanctuary, lit it and fled. The fire, reported by a neighbor at 3:50 a.m., destroyed the Pierce Road church's sanctuary but caused little exterior damage.

The building is now occupied by The Church at Pierce Road, a Christian group that moved in last October.