Man faces federal charges for 2021 Missouri church fire

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) — A man is facing federal hate crime and arson charges for a fire that destroyed the Church of the Latter-day Saints in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday announced the charges against Christopher Scott Pritchard, 46, of Cape Girardeau. Pritchard already faced state charges of property damage motivated by discrimination, arson, burglary and stealing. His state trial is scheduled for October.

A phone message left Friday with Pritchard’s lawyer was not immediately returned.

The fire broke out in April 2021 and quickly engulfed the church. No one was inside and no one was injured, but the building was destroyed.

Authorities have said church officials sought extra police patrol two days before the fire after Pritchard threatened to assault a church bishop and “burn the church down.” Police said officers found more than $1,000 in items in Pritchard’s backpack that belonged to the church, including a laptop, hand tools and 21 apples.

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