Man Sets Church On Fire, Claims He Was Only Trying To Scare Bugs

Arson suspect - Brian Cannon
Arson suspect - Brian Cannon

A 44-year-old man who set fire on the historic Colonial Manor United Methodist Church in West Deptford, New Jersey, has claimed he was only trying to scare bugs in the Church; local prosecutors however, has said he has been a longtime danger to his community.

The fire, which was reported around 6:20 a.m. on April 20, caused severe burns to the hand of a firefighter while working to put out the blaze that authorities say was caused by Brian P. Cannon, 44, of National Park, reported.

Cannon has been charged with third-degree counts of arson along with aggravated assault for the firefighter’s injuries.

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Rebecca Donnarumma, Cannon’s public defender, explained in court papers that the church had given him and his partner permission to shelter on their property during cold weather and allowed him to store items in a space beneath exterior stairs.

Some of the items stored beneath the stairs include gasoline, brake cleaner, spray paint, clothing and tools. The space was also infested with spider crickets and Cannon would “commonly scare the crickets off with a butane torch,” the report said.

Cannon told police he sprayed brake fluid inside the storage area on the day of the fire but he “could not recall if he ignited the butane torch,” according to court documents.

He recalled falling asleep and then being awakened by a neighbor who told him about the fire.

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“Mr. Cannon tells us that the fire was started when he was trying to get rid of spiders in a very reckless manner,” Donnarumma said.

Cannon’s attorney tried arguing for his release from jail pending his trial, but Assistant Prosecutor Jacqueline Caban noted that he had a history of failed court appearances and has been convicted of assaults and other crimes, The Christian Post reports.

Though Donnarumma argued for his release and said her client was working on finding a stable place to stay and had a job, Superior Court Judge John Eastlack said considering his past, allowing him to be released pre-trial would be too risky.

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