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Stone Mountain church part of arson cases

 

STONE MOUNTAIN — A 21-year-old Stone Mountain man charged with setting fire to a DeKalb County auto dealership is under suspicion for the arson of a nearby Georgia Baptist church.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that Jeffrey Tremaine Sprowl was arrested Nov. 25 for the first-degree arson at Motor Venture Auto Sales on Memorial Drive the day before.

Officials believe the suspect may be connected to as many as nine other fires set nearby in a span of just a few hours. A common accelerant was used in the other blazes.

Two other suspects were apprehended with Sprowl, but not charged.

Indian Creek Baptist Church in Stone Mountain suffered from one of the earlier fires. Pastor Bill Owens said someone broke through a window in the Sunday School wing before pouring an accelerant inside and tossing in a match. 

Above the fire source was the church’s library. Owens stated the fire became so hot it weakened the structure. The weight from the books eventually caused the second floor to crumble into the first. 

“It’s a total loss,” he said of the Sunday School space. “The sanctuary and chapel were both untouched by the fire but have extensive smoke damage. Our Family Life Center had smoke damage as well.”

French African Baptist Mission, a congregation established through the Stone Mountain Association and North American Mission Board, also meets on the premises. Both congregations met for a dual worship service in the Family Life Center Nov. 30.

The operation of a clothing ministry at the church is currently being assessed. “We’re trying to determine which items are able to be used and which ones aren’t,” Owens said. Food in the ministry center was not damaged, but records suffer from water damage.