Howell County News/ Amanda MendezHowell County News/ Amanda Mendez

Burglary Discovered and Origins of Fire “Suspicious”

Willow Springs woke up to a shocking discovery last Monday morning. The church office of Sacred Heart Catholic Church had burned to a cinder overnight. As reported by Howell County News last week, the building is not occupied but is used as office space for Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Willow Springs. Father Sherman Wall is the pastor of Sacred Heart, and he resides elsewhere. Neither the priest nor anyone else was injured in the blaze. 
Firefighters from Willow Springs Fire Department, Eleven Point Rural Fire, Mountain View, and Pomona responded at approximately 1:30 a.m. Monday morning. The cause of the fire remains under investigation, and a fire marshal has been contacted, said Willow Springs Fire Chief Vance Farmer on the morning of the 20th.
In a follow up interview on September 24, Chief Farmer elaborated. 
“I did see suspicious things that caught my attention,” he disclosed, “things that were out of place.”
He confirmed that it was also suspicious that an unoccupied building should have caught on fire and been fully engulfed in flames by the time firefighters arrived on scene. 
“When you arrive and the whole structure is engulfed, that in and of itself is suspicious,” Chief Farmer concluded.
At this point, the investigation will continue via the State Fire Marshal's office in conjunction with local law enforcement. 
In his homily over the weekend, Father Wall shared with the parishioners that the Sunday collection was taken by an apparent thief and many parish records were destroyed in the blaze. The only records salvageable were in a fireproof cabinet, but this cabinet was the target of the person who broke in. 
From the pulpit, Father Wall called for compassion. He asked those present to pray for the person responsible and to pray for the church. 
At press time, the burglary and fire remain under investigation. Details will be published as they become available. Watch for updates between print issues.
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