ST. PAUL, Minn. - Arson is a crime that can strike at the heart of a community, shaking residents' sense of safety, security and well-being.
Those feelings can fester when an arson fire goes unsolved for years, as is the case with a handful of church fires across Minnesota. On Wednesday the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) renewed a call for assistance from the public in solving these crimes, and helping their communities heal.
Among those unsolved cases are the blaze that caused millions in damage to St. Mary's Catholic Church in Melrose, and a 2012 fire at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Isanti where the arsonist's image was caught on surveillance camera but was never identified.
“The public’s help is critical in solving arsons,” State Fire Marshal Bruce West said in a released statement. “Even the smallest detail could break a case wide open. We need people to come forward.”
Notable unsolved arsons in places of worship since 2012 include:
- Darling Historic Church on March 24, 2017, in Little Falls
- St. Mary’s Catholic Church on March 11, 2016, in Melrose.
- Abandoned church on Aug. 22, 2016, in Deer Creek.
- Church, Inc., building on Feb. 15, 2016, in St. Paul.
- Bethany Lutheran Church on June 13, 2014, in Minneapolis.
- Open Arms Assembly of God on Sept. 6, 2014, in St. Paul.
- Community Covenant Church on July 11, 2013, in Minneapolis.
- Faith Baptist Church on Aug. 26, 2013, in St. Paul.
- St. Elizabeth Catholic Church on May 28, 2012, in Isanti.
Anyone with information on any of these church arsons can call the Minnesota Arson Hotline at 800-723-2020 to submit information. Callers can remain anonymous and rewards up to $5,000 are available. Information can also be submitted online at the Minnesota chapter of the International Association of Arson Investigators website.