Murray United Church was destroyed by fire on Jan. 11, and a Merritt resident has been charged with arson.

Suspect arrested in connection with Merritt-area church fires

Four churches were the target of an arsonist last week, with one completely destroyed

A man was arrested on Jan. 17 in connection with arson and attempted arson at four churches in and around Merritt on Jan. 11.

August David Caprian, 37, of Merritt is in custody and facing three charges of arson, along with a charge of break and enter with intent to commit an offence.

READ MORE: Historic Nicola Valley church destroyed by fire

“[On Thursday] we had obtained some evidence that allowed us to get a search warrant,” said Cst. Tracy Dunsmore of the Merritt RCMP. “We [searched] a home in the Merritt area and obtained further evidence which allowed us to make an arrest.

“[The suspect is] currently in custody and just awaiting to appear in court. He’ll be transported to Kamloops provincial court this afternoon where he’ll make an appearance and then further court dates will be set after that.”

Dunsmore added that at this point police believe there was only one person involved in all four cases.

Court records show that Caprian has a prior criminal record for theft under $5,000, assault, and break and enter. Police have not yet identified a motive behind the recent arson attacks.

Three of the churches—Crossroads Community Church in Merritt and the Anglican and Roman Catholic chuches on the Scw’exmx (Shackan) Reserve—sustained minor damage, but Murray United Church on Highway 5A in the Nicola Valley was completely destroyed.

The church, which was built in 1876, was the first Protestant church in the Interior of B.C. and the oldest building in the Nicola Valley. It was refurbished last year, and while it had not been open for regular services since 1957, special services and events were still held there. The church was also open to visitors in the summer, with students providing guided tours of the church and grounds.

A decision on whether or not to rebuild Murray United Church has yet to be made. The church was not insured.

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