Teenagers who can't spell, not devil worshippers, shattered windows and spray-painted a church, weeks after fires at two other churches in this small town, an investigator said yesterday.
Detective Chris Isom said some of the spray-painted messages "misspelled Satan ... as Santin, on one of the walls." He said an investigation was continuing.
"We actually think it is some teenagers, instead of Satan worshippers," Isom said.
He said there was no connection between the late July vandalism at the predominantly white First Apostolic Church in Sparta and fires weeks earlier at the predominantly black Roberts Street Church of Christ and Kynette United Methodist Church.
Police charged James Henry Dibrell, 47, with arson and burglary in the earlier fires that damaged the two churches and five vacant houses in one neighborhood.
Investigators previously had said race was not a factor in the fires. Dibrell's relatives said he was addicted to drugs and mentally ill. He remains in custody.
The Rev. Kip Simar, pastor of First Apostolic Church, said he agreed that teenagers probably were responsible for the vandalism that included spray-painted messages that meant to say "Satan is my God" and "Kill Jesus" and included threats against him and his family.
"They have no respect for the Lord's stuff, the kingdom of God," Simar said.
Simar said the vandals must have been looking for money, and when they didn't find any, they spotted the church's spray paint. He said the damage totaled about $6,000.
"I don't hold it against them," Simar said. "I know they are doing it not really knowing what they are doing."
— ASSOCIATED PRESS