Man, 24, charged with arson
Pastor's son arrested in connection with '05 fire

WINDER - Three years after someone torched the interior of Winder's New Life Deliverance Church, investigators have reportedly linked a Dacula man to the crime.

Police on Wednesday arrested Maurice Arnold, 24, in connection with the fire. He's charged with arson, conspiracy to commit arson and vandalism to a place of worship. He remained at the Barrow County Jail on $30,000 bond Friday, an official said.

Glenn Allen, spokesman for Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John Oxendine, said Arnold is a son of the church's pastor, Quincy Arnold Sr.

Leaders with New Life could not be reached for comment Friday.

The incident, which drew scorn from Georgia's top fire officials in December 2005, has been jointly investigated by the Barrow County Sheriff's Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

At the time, officials said an arsonist somehow entered the Apostolic church in the predawn hours of Dec. 7, poured an accelerant down the center aisle of the church's sanctuary, lit it and fled.

It was unclear Friday exactly what evidence police believe links Arnold to the crime.

Sheriff's Office spokesman Investigator Matt Guthas said officials have interviewed "numerous" witnesses in the intervening years, gathered evidence beyond what was at the scene and even conducted surveillance operations.

"We've been working tirelessly to execute all leads," Guthas said. "We'll continue to do that until there are no leads."

Evidence collected at the scene, tested at an ATF laboratory in Atlanta, determined gasoline was used to set the church on fire, Guthas said.

The fire, reported by a neighbor at 3:50 a.m., destroyed the Pierce Road church's sanctuary but caused little exterior damage. Officials found no evidence of forced entry or any other crimes.

Guthas said additional arrests are possible but declined to elaborate.

"I don't want to jeopardize this investigation down the road," he said.

The church building has switched hands since the fire. It's now occupied by The Church at Pierce Road, a Christian group which moved in last October, said its pastor, Terry Hawkins.

Hawkins said the church was repaired by Arnold Sr. and its former owners. New Life has since merged with another congregation in Lawrenceville, Hawkins said.

In the wake of the blaze, the fire commissioner's office issued a standard $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction. That reward still stands, said Allen.

Guthas, the police spokesman, said a majority of evidence gathered in the three-year investigation "has not come from sources seeking a reward," he said.