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Former janitor sentenced for arson at Grand Rapids church

A disgruntled former church janitor received a suspended 90-day jail sentence, was fined and must pay restitution after pleading guilty to lighting a fire in the church that he once cleaned.

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A disgruntled former church janitor received a suspended 90-day jail sentence, was fined and must pay restitution after pleading guilty to lighting a fire in the church that he once cleaned.

Robert Evans Shepard, 67, pleaded guilty one charge of fifth-degree arson stemming from the July 27, 2011, fire in United Methodist Church in Grand Rapids.

In addition to the suspended sentence, Shepherd must pay $1,000 in restitution, pay a $125 fine and is restrained from entering the church.

Authorities say the fire was the last in a string of vandalism Shepard conducted after losing his job with the church. He was also upset that his wife, the church's worship committee chairwoman, had been taken advantage of by church officials, according to the criminal complaint.

When questioned by police last year, Shepherd told them he also threw eggs at the window of the church pastor's office, ran over a handicapped parking sign in the parking lot and left a red-painted doll stabbed with a kitchen knife on the church baptismal font. Original estimates of the fire's damage were put at $50,000.

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According to the criminal complaint, Shepard admitted to investigators that he not only started the fire but also vandalized the church on the night of July 23 by throwing mop water onto the floor and unplugging the church refrigerator.

Church officials said last year that Shepherd had been discharged from his job at the church more than two years before the fire.

Related Topics: CRIMEFIRESGRAND RAPIDS
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