RICHLAND PARISH - UPDATE: [10:00 p.m. 10/31/2017]
Flames, smoke and little else is left of the church Mary Alexander has been going to since she was 12 years old.
"I couldn't believe it," Alexander said. "Because we was just here last night for a church meeting and you never expect things like this would happen this close by."
Authorities claim the person responsible was a 15-year-old from Caldwell Parish.
Witnesses said they saw him at the scene early Tuesday morning driving away in an Entergy truck.
It was one of two vehicles he allegedly stole sometime before deputies believe he grabbed gasoline and torched the sanctuary.
Alexander said there are still too many questions including why someone would do such a thing.
"We don't know why only God know's why... what's going through that person's mind so we just ask for prayers for that person as well as our church family," she added.
Alexander said the church that is now just ash and debris is only four months old, but inside were precious one of a kind relics that can never be replaced.
She said despite the loss of the building, what remains is the faith of their congregation.
"God is in our heart the church is in us, not the building," Alexander said.
"We can't stop. Jesus didn't give up so how can we give up?" she added.
Alexander said she's thankful the 137-year-old church next door is still standing.
"Like I said we still have the old building. We're still gonna move forward," she said.
UPDATE: The Richland Parish Sheriff's Department has released details in the recent church arson case involving a juvenile.
At 9:53 A.M. on October 31, 2017, the Richland Parish Sheriff’s Department received a call about a fire at a church on Venable Road near Start, La.
When deputies arrived along with local fire departments, they found the church fully engulfed in flames.
Deputies talked to witnesses on the scene that stated they saw and talked to a young white male driving a white Entergy Truck that left the scene of the fire. The information was sent to other local law enforcement agencies in the area so they could be on the look out.
Entergy of Louisiana personnel was very helpful in gathering information and locating the Entergy truck. The vehicle was located in Caldwell Parish along with a white juvenile suspect, who was driving the vehicle. The juvenile was taken into custody by the Caldwell Parish Sheriff’s Office.
The juvenile has been arrested in Caldwell parish on several charges including the theft of two Entergy vehicles. The Richland Parish Sheriff’s Department has warrants for the arrest of this juvenile suspect, for the arson of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church.
UPDATE: According to Richland Parish Sheriff Gilley, a juvenile from the Columbia/Caldwell Parish area is in custody accused of what is being considered a possible church arson.
Sheriff Gilley said the juvenile allegedly stole an Entergy car and then came here to the church and set it on fire.
We will continue to bring updates as they become available.
UPDATE (10/31/17): Officials have arrested the suspect involved in a possible arson case at a church fire in Richland Parish.
The suspect's name has not yet been released.
The investigation is continuing.
The Richland Parish Sheriff's Office is currently investigating a possible arson case with a church fire.
The fire broke out Tuesday morning at St. Paul Baptist church at 37 Venable Road in Richland Parish.
Details are limited at this time.
We have a crew headed to the scene and will continue to update this article as more information becomes available.
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