Bonners Ferry man arrested for arson of St. Ann’s Catholic Church

February 17, 2017 GMT

A Bonners Ferry man has been arrested on suspicion of setting fire to St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Bonners Ferry, which was completely destroyed in the blaze in April.

Shane Rucker, 33, was arrested Thursday after a federal grand jury indicted him for destruction of religious property and using fire to damage or destroy religious property. He faces a minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum of 20 years in prison if he is convicted of the charges.

The arson is being prosecuted under the Church Arson Prevention Act, which was passed by Congress in 1996 in response to numerous fires set at black churches in the South.

The church, which had recently been renovated, was attended by about 150 families. The congregation initially used the a nearby United Methodist church for worship but now meets in three trailers pushed together, said the Rev. Carlos Perez.

Perez said he was gratified to hear about the arrest. “As a priest I feel compassion for that guy,” he said. “I think he has to pay for his mistake.”

The church received $1.8 million from its insurance policy but is raising money to pay the rest of the estimated $2.5 million cost to rebuild, Perez said. They hope to begin construction in the spring.

“Really we need the church badly,” he said. “We need the space for religious education, our meetings and worship. The trailer is good but not great.”

Investigators determined that the fire was set in three places in the church’s basement. The fire happened less than two months after St. Ann’s and Trinity Lutheran Church were vandalized.

Rucker has long been considered a person of interest in the case. Until recently he was in jail on burglary charges. In December he was sentenced to time served on reduced charges of unlawful entry and petit theft. He has cases pending for possession of a controlled substance and violation of a domestic violence protection order. He has a lengthy criminal history.