By LISA MARCHESONI, email@example.com
Pastor Kevin Blackburn prayed with the parents of two boys charged with attempted arson of his church just moments before they entered Juvenile Court Wednesday.
The 16-year-old boys, who are cousins, were charged with attempted arson July 31 of Pioneer Church of God on Pioneer Drive off Old Nashville Highway in Smyrna by Smyrna Police Detective Lt. Todd Spearman.
Their motive apparently stemmed from their "self-proclaimed satanic beliefs," Spearman said.
Juvenile Court Judge Donna Scott ordered evaluations for the Rutherford County cousins, one a student at Smyrna High School and one a student at La Vergne High School. Another hearing is set Sept. 8.
Before the two-hour hearing started, Blackburn asked the parents if he could pray with them. They agreed, bowed their heads and prayed together. The parents were humble.
"We are all forgiven in God's eyes," Blackburn said during a break in the hearing. "I don't have any anger or aggression against them (the cousins)."
They have to prepare for the consequences of what happened, the pastor said.
"We'll accept any apology they want to give," Blackburn said.
Spearman told Scott the boys allegedly broke into the church. Neighbors heard them and called police. The boys prepared to pour out an accelerant when Smyrna Police officers arrived.
"They were going to prove their loyalty by burning the church," Spearman said, adding they loosely followed the satanic bible.
During the investigation, Spearman found a log on the Xanga Web site where one of the boys posted information that caused the detective alarm. The boy listed "burning churches" as one of his interests.
Under questioning from defense attorney Ray White, Spearman said someone else could have posted the information.
White asked if the boys checked to make sure no one was inside the church.
Spearman said they did check but endangered themselves.
Defense attorney Will Fraley, who represented the second boy, asked if Spearman found any membership in cults or organizations.
"They claimed to know Satan," Spearman said. "They claimed to follow Satan."
White said he didn't want to downplay the severity of the case, but the boys have rights to their own beliefs.
Both attorneys asked for their clients to be released from detention, but Spearman and Assistant District Attorney Leslie Collum asked they be held. Both parents assured Scott they could supervise their sons.
Scott said the boys will remain in custody while undergoing the evaluations due to the seriousness of the crime and the risk to themselves and the community.
While the attorneys discussed the options with their clients, Blackburn said he didn't fear for his church.
"If they burn it down, I'll build a bigger one," Blackburn said. "I am blessed."
[Originally published August 11, 2005]