Sanctuary back in use at Emmett church following last year's arson fire

jsowell@idahostatesman.comMay 3, 2014 

A year after an set fire swept through the First Baptist Church of Emmett, the congregation will meet at 10:45 a.m. Sunday for the first time in the repaired and improved church.

"It's been a long year and we're really excited to get back into the sanctuary," said Pastor Lance Zagaris.

The day after the April 27, 2013, fire, the Baptists held their Sunday services at the Potter Funeral Chapel. Later they used the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Baptist Church's fellowship hall. Church members are looking forward to getting back to their own sanctuary.

"i'm excited as can be," said Dave Hodges. "It's something special. I imagine there will be a few tears shed."

Church members are thankful that the building could be saved and that unique portions of the building, such as its woodwork and windows, were not just spared but returned to their original beauty, said Cyndi Dunbar Butticci.

"Of course, with a fire you lose things, too, but as we move forward with our normal worship and church family life those losses will surely fade away," she said.

An open house will be held from 1 to 7 p.m. on May 17. The church is located at 126 S. Hayes Ave.

The Baptist Church and the Community Bible Church three blocks farther south were both set on fire minutes apart. Both fires started in the basements and heavily damaged the buildings. A safe was stolen from the Baptist Church.

Two weeks later, two men were arrested and charged with the fires. Authorities said William C. Dorahush Jr. and Bradley R. Thomasson set fire to the churches to cover their tracks after burglarizing the two buildings.

Dorahush pleaded guilty in September to two counts of first-degree arson. Burglary and theft charges were dismissed in exchange for his guilty pleas.

Dorahush was sentenced in December to 25 years, with a minimum of five years to serve before he is eligible for parole. He is serving his sentence at the Idaho State Correctional Institution in Kuna.

He was previously convicted of two arsons in 1992 and Gem County Prosecuting Attorney Richard Linville previously described him as a career criminal.

Thomasson, 42, was originally charged with two counts each of first-degree arson and burglary, along with grand theft and petit theft. However, those charges were dismissed while Dorahush's case moved forward.

Thomasson was held on a parole violation stemming from the fires. He had been released from prison in 2012 after serving 22 years of a 20-years-to-life sentence for the 1990 murder of his parents in Lewiston.

Charges were refiled earlier this year. Authorities are waiting for Thomasson to be returned to Emmett from a state prison in Kuna to be arraigned on those charges.

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