Arson damages church in Franklin County town of St. Clair

ST. CLAIR, MO (KPLR) - After a fire early Monday morning at Roots Church in St. Clair, the sign on the door reads “Dangerous Building; do not enter.”

Pastor Jason Gaszak says while the fire was contained to the auditorium, there is heat and smoke damage throughout the building.

Lensey Keen works nearby and reported to police a man who was eventually taken into custody in connection to the fire.

“He started acting really funny,” said Keen.  “I asked him if he had anywhere to go.  He said no, he was just sitting up at the Roots Church.  And so I kept asking him, ‘Do you have a phone?  Do you know anybody?’  And he started getting really nervous, acting strange.  He said, ‘Are you stalling me for the police?’  I said, ‘Well I don't know if I need to right now, but with that kind of question.’"

St. Clair firefighters responded.

Captain Andy Branscum said, “We got a call for smoke in the building.  Police were first on the scene, said they had a broken door, and advised they had heavy smoke in the building.  We made entry, found no fire but the building was charred with smoke.”

A statement from St. Clair Police Chief Bill Hammack says someone had thrown a brick through the main doors of the church and set a row of chairs on fire in the sanctuary.

Pastor Gaszak said the 500 members of this non-denominational, bible-based church will be looking for a new church home for at least two or three weeks.

It leaves Keen asking... who would do that to a church?

“So I go home around 7:30-8:00 this morning, see all the police and firemen up there,” she said.  “That's when I was questioned and gave them a full description of the suspect.”

Chief Hammack said a twenty-year-old St. Clair man with a history of mental illness was taken into custody and transported to a health care facility.