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Guilty pleas entered in connection with church building

By Stephen Dawkins

Three men pleaded guilty Monday to burglary and arson of Providence Baptist Church in North Chilton County.

Marcus Allen Brasher, 33, of Chilton County pleaded guilty to burglary of the church; Billy Sherrell Ray, 34, of Calera pleaded guilty to burglary and theft of property; and Bryan Christopher Henry, 34, of Clanton pleaded guilty to second-degree arson, according to a press release from the state Fire Marshal’s office.

The pleas were entered into Alabama’s 19th judicial circuit, which includes Chilton County.

Sentencing has been set for Dec. 9, with Circuit Court Judge John Bush presiding.

The three men are out of jail on bond.

They were arrested shortly after the fire, on Jan. 12, 2008.

Providence Pastor Allen Foster said he was present at the Chilton County Courthouse when the men entered their pleas.

“I was very thankful because it’s the right thing to do, for them to go ahead and admit what they did,” Foster said. “This gives our church closure, a chance to move on.

“When they do the sentencing, that will be like the end of the chapter.”

A new chapter was begun Tuesday when Providence served as a polling place, which was moved from the adjacent volunteer fire department.

“I was taking people on tours of the church,” Foster said about a building that has been rebuilt in the time since the arson.

Foster said he has never spoken with the men but would welcome the opportunity.

“We’re not angry at them; we’re angry at what they done,” he said. “We’re not going to hold it against them forever.”