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Six charged in arson at Tacoma church day care [The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)]

By Stacia Glenn, The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Oct. 15--Investigators never could figure out why someone started a fire inside a Tacoma church day care last year and deliberately crashed a van into the building.

They did, however, figure out who was involved.

Pierce County prosecutors have charged six people in connection with the May 2, 2012, incident at the Church of God in Christ center on Pacific Avenue. The incidents caused more than $27,000 in damages to Pathways to Learning Child Care, a day care associated with the church that was licensed for 50 or so children.

No one was hurt in the fire or the crash.

Bench warrants have been issued for Alvin Lee, 26; Darcy Chase, 30; and Eugene Henderson, 27. Also charged in the case are Kenneth Baines Jr., 24; Jonathan Hazel, 26; and Mitchell Knapp-Patterson, 21.

All six defendants face multiple charges that include first-degree arson, second-degree conspiracy to commit arson, first-degree attempted arson, theft of a motor vehicle, second-degree taking a motor vehicle without permission and conspiracy to commit theft of a motor vehicle.

Police said someone placed a large rock on the gas pedal of a van and crashed it into the church day care just before it opened the morning of May 2, 2012. The van had been stolen the night before.

Officers followed the tire tracks and found a Seahawks knit cap on the ground, which was later tested for DNA and linked to Knapp-Patterson.

The next morning, police were again called to the church and discovered someone had lit three small fires inside the day care center. A rock was used to smash open a window and a gasoline-filled Starbucks coffee bottle was found inside.

According to charging papers:

Knapp-Patterson told detectives Baines asked him if he wanted to make money on an insurance scam by stealing a car and crashing it into a church but he refused. Lee and Henderson visited him the next day with the same request. Knapp-Patterson claimed he refused the job but gave the men his Seahawks cap that was found at the scene.

Baines admitted he arranged for Knapp-Patterson to steal a car and admitted he was there that night, but said he walked away before the fire was lit.

Hazel claimed he and his then-girlfriend Chase drove Knapp-Patterson to get gas in a failed attempt to torch the stolen van.

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Chase told police she was on a "methamphetamine binge" at that time and could only vaguely remember driving the men to a gas station. She recalled "Knapp-Patterson bragged about having committed the church arson that was on the news," according to court records.

When asked about a motive, several defendants said it was an insurance scam. It's unclear what the scam was since none of them owned the stolen van or the church center. Most of the defendants have a lengthy criminal history, prosecutors said.

Lee has 24 convictions; Henderson has 13 convictions; Baines has 17 convictions and is serving a 10-year, 8-month prison sentence for kidnapping, robbery and witness intimidation; Knapp-Patterson has eight convictions; Hazel has 28 convictions and is serving a 3-year, 1-month sentence for failure to register as a sex offender; and Chase has 2 misdemeanor convictions, according to court records.


(c)2013 The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services



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