BIRMINGHAM, Ala.–Fire erupted at three more rural Alabama churches Tuesday, less than a week after five Baptist churches burned in the state.
State and federal investigators were dispatched to the sites, said Ragan Ingram, assistant commissioner of the Alabama Department of Insurance, the state agency that oversees fire investigations.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
“We’re investigating as suspected arson, but we’ll see what happens,” Ingram said. Damage was still being assessed, authorities said Tuesday.
Federal investigators said they are using two profilers to try to establish what type of person they are hunting in last week’s five church fires.
The profilers are Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents based at the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Quantico, Va.
One is a geographic profiler who looks where the crimes occurred and past similar incidents or patterns to try to pinpoint where the arsonist might live. The other, a criminal profiler, studies the total criminal behavior, what kind of person would commit the crime, why and with whom they may be associated.
“This is not a psychic wonderland,” said Jim Cavanaugh, ATF’s regional director. “This is the study of past behavior.”
Arsonists attacked five Bibb County churches early Friday, burning three of them to the ground and damaging the other two. Officials on Friday ruled three of the fires arson–Old Union Baptist Church, Antioch Baptist Church and Ashby Baptist. On Monday, Ingram said the fires at the other two churches–Rehobeth Baptist Church and Pleasant Sabine Baptist–also were confirmed arson.
A sixth fire that broke out a day earlier at a church in neighboring Chilton County was deemed accidental and unrelated, Ingram said.
“We’ve got teams out everywhere,” said Cavanaugh. “I think it’s solvable. And the only way to solve it is to keep pressing on it.”