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Pair Plead Guilty In East Texas Church Fires

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TYLER (AP) – Two men accused in a series of church fires in East Texas pleaded guilty to all counts and both face up to life in prison.

Nobody was hurt in the January and February blazes that damaged or destroyed 10 churches, leading to an investigation that included state and federal arson experts.

Jason Robert Bourque, 20, pleaded guilty Wednesday to five counts of arson and three counts of attempted arson. Daniel George McAllister, 22, entered guilty pleas to two counts of arson and two counts of attempted arson.

Prosecutors are seeking life terms for the arson counts and 20-year prison terms for the attempted arson pleas.

Two churches were burned down on New Year’s Day in Athens and Van Zandt County. Two more churches in Athens, five in Smith County and another in Wills Point also were burned.

Security videotapes and shoeprints helped lead to Bourque and McAllister, according to investigators. Both men were arrested Feb. 21.

A Smith County grand jury in May indicted Bourque and McAllister.

The pair last week waived their right to a jury trial. Both are in custody with bail set at $10 million apiece.

Sentencing was set for Jan. 10, 2011.

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