A Canyon County jury on Friday found Bradley R. Thomasson, 42, guilty of two counts each of first-degree arson and burglary and single counts of grand theft and petit theft. The verdict came after a four-day trial.
Thomasson’s convictions follow those of co-defendant Charles Dorahush Jr., 45, who pleaded guilty in September to two counts of first-degree arson. Similar burglary and theft charges were dismissed against Dorahush in exchange for his guilty pleas.
The two men torched the First Baptist Church and the Community Bible Church – two blocks from each other near downtown Emmett - on April 27, 2013, to cover up overnight burglaries at both churches. Authorities said the pair hoped to find cash and other valuables in the churches, which were closed for several months for repairs.
Third District Judge Susan Wiebe moved the trial to Caldwell after defense attorney Carter Winters argued that pre-trial publicity had been so extensive that his client would not have received a fair and impartial trial. He also argued that statements to reporters by Gem County Prosecuting Attorney Richard Linville emphasized how the fires damaged the whole community, not just the members of the two churches.
Thomasson and Dorahush lived only a short time in Emmett, and most of what most residents know of them came from what they learned in news reports after the arsons.
Potential Gem County jurors became aware through reporting by the Idaho Statesman that Thomasson was convicted of the 1989 murders of his parents in Lewiston, when he was in high school, Wiebe said. Thomasson was placed on parole and released from prison in January 2012.
When she ruled to move the trial, Wiebe said Gem County residents who heard about Thomasson’s murder convictions might form judgments about his possible guilt in the arson case.
Dorahush was sentenced in December to 25 years in prison, 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.