Police arrest teen in Dummerston church arson case


DUMMERSTON -- A 19-year-old Dummerston resident has been arrested in connection with Monday's arson that damaged a historic church.

Vermont State Police on Wednesday said Dakota Thomas was cited for second-degree arson and released on conditions by Judge Katherine Hayes.

Thomas is scheduled to appear in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division on Oct. 14 to answer to the charge, police said.

Police did not say how they believe Thomas started the fire at Dummerston Congregational Church; nor did they say how they settled on Thomas as a suspect. No other information was available Wednesday night.

Second-degree arson carries a penalty of one to five years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $1,000. Vermont law defines an offender as "a person who willfully and maliciously sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned, or who willfully and maliciously aids, counsels or procures the burning of any building or structure."

The blaze, reported at 10:41 p.m. Monday, was "mostly extinguished by a passerby who had seen the smoke and investigated it and (was) able to attack it with a fire extinguisher that was present within the church," investigators said.

But West Dummerston firefighters observed smoke and requested a second alarm. Assistance came from Brattleboro, Putney, Newfane, Guilford and Chesterfield, N.H.

No injuries were reported. The damage was confined to the interior of the church, with the loss estimated at $25,000.

News of Thomas' arrest came less than 24 hours after Vermont State Police, who had been called in Tuesday to investigate, announced that the fire was intentionally set.

The church, in Dummerston Center at Middle Road and East-West Road, was built in 1842. In addition to serving as a house of worship, the church hosts public meetings and serves as a town polling place.

Dummerston Congregational Church also hosts the popular Dummerston Apple Pie Festival each October.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.


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