Man accused of setting fire at Independence church - KCTV5

Police: Man burns church because 'in mood for a midnight fire'

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© Nima Shaffe/KCTV5 © Nima Shaffe/KCTV5
Joseph W. Gazafy Jr. Joseph W. Gazafy Jr.
INDEPENDENCE, MO (KCTV) -

A man is in custody after authorities said Friday that he confessed to setting an Independence church on fire.

The Jackson County Prosecutor's Office charged Joseph W. Gazafy, 22, with second-degree arson Friday morning.

According to court documents, Gazafy told Independence paramedics that he set the church on fire because he was "in the mood for a midnight fire," and that he "got his rush."

The Church of Jesus Christ Outreach Restoration Branch suffered extensive damage in the fire, which was spotted about 1:45 a.m. Services won't be held for some time at the church at 723 S. Crysler Ave.

The fire started in the basement kitchen and then spread. A portion of the sanctuary saw some fire damage and significant smoke damage.

Officer Tom Gentry, a spokesman for the Independence Fire Department, said the man called police at 2:35 a.m. to confess to the crime, and officers then arrested him.

Gazafy told an Independence Police Department dispatcher that he set the fire because "he wanted to get his family's attention."

He told police that he broke a window in the church and used gasoline to set the fire. Investigators found glass in Gazafy's shoes. He was treated for an injury to his arm, which police believe he suffered when breaking the window.

He allegedly told a police officer, "Can I be free? I think I should be able to burn down a church," according to court documents.

Larry Hodges, church pastor, told KCTV5 that this is a significant blow, but he is relieved that someone is in custody. The church had insurance and plans to rebuild.

Hodges said Gazafy does not appear to have any connection to the church.

Chari Pedersen, a church member, said the church was founded nearly 15 years ago. She said a significant extension to the building was made in recent years and that mortgage was paid off a couple of months ago.

Pedersen said she became emotional when discussing the fire. She said it's very sad.

"It's a special building to us," she said. "It's where we worship. But it can all be replaced and no one was hurt, so that's the important ting. We'll get it fixed back up."

The congregation has about 150 members.

"We helped build it, literally with our hands. We worked days and it was just hard to see something like that," she said. "Why was it allowed to happen? We don't ever doubt God in that, but that's the hard part."

A number of other churches have offered their facilities for church members to worship in this weekend. Details are still being worked out.

Prosecutors have asked a judge to set a $30,000 bond for Gazafy.                                                                                                                                                                                                               Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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