Three Men Plead Guilty in Arson of Nine Alabama Churches

Dec 21, 2006, 00:00 ET from United States Attorney's Office

    BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Dec. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- MATTHEW LEE CLOYD,
 the offenses of conspiracy and arson in connection with a string of church
 arsons that spanned from February 3 through February 7, 2006. The men have
 remained in U.S. Marshal custody since their arrest on March 8, 2006, after
 a criminal complaint was filed in U.S. District Court. CLOYD, MOSELEY and
 DEBUSK were indicted in U.S. District Court on March 29, 2006.
     "These senseless crimes have resulted in incalculable losses," stated
 U.S. Attorney Alice H. Martin. "The devastation of nine church homes, as
 well as the devastation of these young men's families - think before you
 act is the lesson others should heed - some actions have dire consequences.
 It is a sad day," adds U.S. Attorney Martin.
     CLOYD, 21, of Pelham, and MOSELEY, 20, of Birmingham, plead guilty to
 the ten count indictment which charges in count 1, that all the defendants
 conspired to damage and destroy by fire nine churches in Bibb, Pickens,
 Greene, and Sumter Counties. This conspiracy count also alleges that
 persons were injured as a direct and proximate result of the charged
 offense. Counts 2-6 charge all the defendants with damaging and destroying
 by fire five churches located in Bibb County. Counts 7-10 charge CLOYD and
 MOSELEY with damaging and destroying by fire four churches located in West
 Alabama. The affected churches and dates of the fires are listed:
      2/3/06 Rehobeth Baptist, Bibb County
      2/3/06 Ashby Baptist, Bibb County
      2/3/06 Old Union Baptist, Bibb County
      2/3/06 Pleasant Sabine Baptist, Bibb County
      2/3/06 Antioch Baptist, Bibb County
      2/7/06 Dancy Baptist Church, Pickens County
      2/7/06 Morning Star Missionary Baptist, Greene County
      2/7/06 Spring Valley Baptist, Sumter County
      2/7/06 Galilee Baptist Church, Sumter County
     DEBUSK, 20, of Hoover, plead guilty without a written plea agreement to
 counts 1-6 of the indictment.
     The written plea agreements contain waivers of the right to appeal and
 post-conviction relief. The factual basis contained in the plea agreements
 for CLOYD and MOSELEY states that during the evening hours of February 2,
 2006, CLOYD, MOSELEY, and DeBUSK traveled from Jefferson County, Alabama,
 to Bibb County, Alabama, in CLOYD's dark green Toyota 4Runner to spotlight
 deer while drinking beer. After a period of time, the three drove to
 Rehobeth Baptist Church and broke into the church where artificial flowers
 were set on fire. The three fled the scene and continued to other churches
 in the area where they broke into those churches and set fires as well.
     In the days following the church fires, the three men followed the
 local news reports regarding the investigation into the first series of
 fires. CLOYD and MOSELEY became concerned that the investigators were
 getting close to discovering their actions, so they made a plan to divert
 the investigation further away from Birmingham in to West Alabama. On the
 night of February 6, 2006, CLOYD and MOSELEY drove to Galilee Baptist
 Church located in Sumter County, Alabama, and broke into the church and
 started a fire there. They repeated this act at three more churches in the
 West Alabama area and returned to Birmingham.
     Agents, in the meanwhile, were gathering evidence from the fire scenes
 and were able to trace tire tracks to CLOYD's Toyota 4Runner. On March 8,
 2006, CLOYD was arrested near his Birmingham apartment. Agents also
 arrested MOSELEY and DeBUSK on March 8, 2006.
     "Today's guilty pleas bring this case full circle; the young defendants
 admitted to their actions," stated James Cavanaugh, Special Agent in
 Charge, Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. "Although good police
 work has prevailed, the victimized church communities continue to heal."
     "These guilty pleas represent the tireless efforts of many law
 enforcement agencies to bring this matter to justice," stated Carmen S.
 Adams, Special Agent in Charge, Birmingham Field Division, Federal Bureau
 of Investigation. "The destruction of a house of worship is something the
 FBI and our local, state and federal partners take very seriously. We
 appreciate the efforts of everyone involved."
     The minimum mandatory sentence faced by each of the three men is not
 less than seven years and not more than forty years and a fine of not more
 than $250,000 or both, for each count. In addition, each must serve a term
 of supervised release following their prison terms of not more than five
 years. Under the advisory federal sentencing guidelines, the sentences for
 counts 1-10 can run concurrently. The sentencing hearing will be set and
 punishment will be determined by the court at a later date.
     Assistant United States Attorneys Herbert H. Henry and Michael W.
 Whisonant are prosecuting this case on behalf of the U.S. Government.
 Special Agents of ATF and FBI along with numerous local law enforcement
 investigated this case.
     United States Attorney's Office Press Releases are also on the
 Internet, visit
     Jill Ellis, Public Information Contact, 205-244-2015

SOURCE United States Attorney's Office