060721-Fruita church fire-CPT

Christopher Tomlinson/The Daily Sentinel

The Fruita Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was heavily damaged after a fire earlier this year. After an arson investigation, officials announced that a juvenile has been arrested in the case.

A juvenile has been arrested in connection with the fire that destroyed the Fruita Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in late April.

The Fruita Police Department, with the assistance of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Federal Bureau of Investigations and Lower Valley Fire Protection District announced the arrest Friday evening.

The arrest stemmed from an arson investigation, which was opened when the fire was determined to have been intentionally set.

The identity of the juvenile has not been released. Chief Frank Cavaliere, with the Lower Valley Fire Protection District, said more information about the case would be released in the near future.

Craig Stagg, president of the Grand Junction Colorado West Stake, said he was still saddened by the event, but said it was good that the members were getting some closure.

He said a decision on the future of the church building has yet to be made, but they will be learning more in the coming weeks.

The Fruita community has rallied behind the local church members since the fire took place. Stagg said they are continuing to have community members help out even in small ways, which they appreciate.

“A neighbor was mowing the lawn out there the other day. That was nice to see,” Stagg said. “So we’re grateful for everyone’s help in the whole community.”

FIRE AND INVESTIGATION

The fire began in the early morning hours on Monday, April 26. A Lower Valley Fire Protection District crew responded shortly after 4 a.m. to the church building at 417 E. Ottley Ave.

When the crew arrived, the fire had already spread through the main section of the building.

Multiple agencies responded to the fire, but it did not become clear what the cause of the fire was until the building was secured and investigators could enter. When they did, they were able to determine that the fire was not an accident.

The Friday after the fire the ATF put out a release seeking information about the arson and offering a $10,000 reward for anyone who could help the investigation.

However, investigators had other leads they could follow.

“I can say that there were multiple signs that pointed us to the direction of arson,” said Matt Katzenberger, Lower Valley Fire District captain and fire investigator, at the time.

“I can also say that we collected an amount of DNA and fingerprint evidence that has been sent in for forensic testing at the ATF laboratory, which will also help us in identifying our possible suspect.”

About a month later, the person allegedly responsible for the fire and damage to the church is in custody.