Alleged church arsonist linked to petty crime spree

David Stone

David Stone

SNELLVILLE -- Committing arson at a church was just one incident in a crime spree linked to the same Snellville man that began with a stolen case of beer last week, documents show.

Authorities arrested 24-year-old David Stone Jr. on charges he broke into Snellville's Zoar United Methodist Church, vandalized the gymnasium and started a fire in the kitchen. The church's sprinkler system doused the fire before emergency crews arrived just after midnight Friday, preventing major damages. Nobody else was there.

A few hours prior to that, police believe Stone had stolen a case of Natural Light Beer from a Snellville retailer, where a loss prevention officer recognized him as a "repeat customer who shoplifts," according to a Gwinnett police report. Surveillance images from that incident eventually prompted Stone's arrest.

But his crime spree, according to police, was just getting started.

In the span of a few hours, Stone is suspected in a string of crimes along the Centerville Highway corridor. He allegedly threw a rock through the window of a Shell gas station and stole cigarettes, burglarized a self-storage facility, smashed a window at Zaxby's and another at an eatery called Mr. Eggroll with two more rocks, the police report states.

The report spells out how investigators linked Stone to the spate of crimes.

A Gwinnett police officer canvassing the Centerville Highway area for information Friday was approached by a motorist who stated she'd just seen the news and recognized the suspect as a man who hangs out on a Red Laurel Way porch in Snellville.

Police went to that address -- Stone's parents' house -- and spoke with his mother, who identified him in surveillance images but said she hadn't seen him in a week, the report states.

Another officer learned Stone had been staying with his girlfriend elsewhere in Snellville. There, Stone was arrested and transported for interviews with police and fire investigators.

Stone admitted to starting the church fire and perpetrating the other crimes in talks with fire investigators, the report states. Authorities have not released a motive. Stone's parents told police their son has long grappled with alcohol abuse, the report states.

Stone remains at the Gwinnett County Jail without bond. Along with first-degree arson, he's charged with multiple counts of burglary and criminal damage to property, along with shoplifting and vandalism to a place of worship.