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Saturday, January 19, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor arrested for burning church

An Albany Church Pastor is arrested Friday, and charged with having his own church burned.

45 year old Dr. Joseph Howard is charged with first degree arson. He is being held in the Dougherty County Jail without bond, along with 46 year old Curtis Jones. Investigators say Howard hired Jones to set the fire in the South Albany church.

Arson Investigators say the burning of the Metropolitan Baptist Church on December 31st was not a hate crime, but a crime for money. They charge that Reverend Howard had his church torched to collect the insurance money.

Formerly known as Trinity Baptist, Metropolitan Baptist Church on West Gordon Avenue was vandalized and set on fire. Furniture was found turned over in the church and school offices, but only the sanctuary was burned.

Investigators charge that Reverend Howard sat down with 46 year old Curtis Jones and planned the arson, to make sure the entire church building burned. But the fire department put out the fire in the sanctuary.

Witnesses saw men leaving the area that morning, giving Investigators clues that lead them to make these arrests. Howard told WALB News Ten that he thought the fire was a hate crime, but Investigators say it was for the insurance money. The Metropolitan Baptist Church was being foreclosed on for missing payments to two mortgages, and church property was scheduled to be sold on the courthouse steps that week.

The Church and Reverend Howard were using federal grants to build low cost housing in a very controversial project in that neighborhood. Investigators say they continue to look into allegations that some of that money was misappropriated.

Albany Fire Chief James Carswell and State Fire Commissioner John Oxendine said that more arrests in the church arson are expected, and they continue to look into the possibility of other crimes that could be connected to the church and it's Pastor.