Alleged church arsonist nabbed thanks to public's tips

David Stone

David Stone

SNELLVILLE -- Just a few hours after surveillance photos were distributed to the press, public tips helped police capture the 23-year-old man accused of setting a fire inside a Snellville church, officials said Saturday.

The suspect now identified as David Wayne Stone Jr. of Snellville was arrested by Gwinnett County police late Friday night. Stone later confessed to setting the blaze that caused minimal smoke and water damage to a kitchen at Zoar United Methodist Church the night before, fire department spokesman Capt. Tommy Rutledge said.

He has been charged with first-degree arson and burglary.

Officials said the blaze was deliberately set with the intent to cause significant damage to the structure and found evidence that someone had forced entry into the back of the building, as well as "slight" vandalism inside the church's gymnasium.

Late Friday afternoon, fire investigators were able to track down surveillance footage of the suspect now identified as Stone entering a nearby business prior to the fire.

He was located "thanks to the aggressive coverage by the news media and tips from the general public," Rutledge said.

Information regarding a possible motive was not released Saturday. Officials do not believe Stone attended the church in question.