LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A $10,000 reward to pay witnesses who helped convict a man for setting a fire that destroyed a Catholic church in Hacienda Heights has been reinstated by the Board of Supervisors.
The fire, which was reported shortly after midnight on April 16, 2011, destroyed the St. John Vianney Catholic Church, located at 1345 Turnbull Canyon Road. The fire also damaged an adjacent rectory, from which the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department says two sleeping priests narrowly escaped.
Following Sheriff’s investigations, it was determined that the fire was intentionally set and damage was estimated at over $3 million.
Gregory Yusuke Shiga of Hacienda Heights was arrested for the arson about 13 months after the fire and was sentenced in July to 18 years to life in state prison.
Thoughout Shiga’s trial, no motive was ever disclosed, though he was deemed mentally fit and denied being mentally ill. He was also ordered to pay the church $8.9 million, although it was unlikely he would ever be able to pay as much.
According to Deputy District Attorney Renee Rose, Shiga broke into the church’s sanctuary, saturated toilet paper rolls with a flammable liquid and placed them around the church. He also reportedly opened windows and sprayed an accelerant on the walls and ceiling of the church.
Shiga’s conviction was aided by the testimonies of five witnesses, according to supervisors Don Knabe and Michael Antonovich, who recommended reinstating the reward.
The unanimous vote of the board will allow the witnesses to file a claim for a portion of the $10,000 reward.
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