‘Suspicious’ Fire Guts Church in Monroe County

CHESTNUTHILL TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- A fire at a church in Monroe County was called in just after midnight and state police are calling it suspicious.

Flames destroyed Full Gospel Tabernacle Bread of Life Church in Chestnuthill Township, but a fire marshal says that's not the only damage on the property.

In addition to the fire, five vehicles were found with slashed tires on the property, including a van belonging to the church.

Once daylight hit, a state police fire marshal came to try to find a cause. Officials have not been able to figure out how the fire started but believe it could have started in the basement. The fire is being called suspicious.

In addition to the fire, the state police fire marshal says five vehicles on the property were also found with slashed tires, and none of them were like that on Sunday. Among the damaged vehicles is a van that belongs to the church.

"For somebody to be bold enough to do that, slash the tires, when they know that this is a place where people meet for church during the weekend. There's Bible studies during the week, and people bring their kids here, whether it be for daycare or the camps," said Mia Layba of Chestnuthill Township.

Members of the church and others who use its services came out throughout the day to see the damage.

Layba says if it was set, then why?

"I was in shock this morning, and the fact the someone has this type of vendetta that they risk the spending some time in jail, serious time for arson, is serious. What else could they do?"

People living near the church say crime here is getting bad.

"We have cameras all over our house. I mean, we know what's going on in the world today, so that's sad," said Crystal Franco of Chestnuthill Township.

This isn't the first time the church in Chestnuthill Township has been in the news. Back in January, the pastor's son Kenneth Mays was arrested on child sex charges He's accused of inappropriately touching a 14-year-old girl in August 2016, then sending her sexual messages and naked pictures of himself for about a year.

Police have not said if the incidents are related.

Newswatch 16 tried to get in touch with the pastor of the church for comment on the fire, but he has not returned our calls.

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