KGUN 9NewsCommunity Inspired JournalismCochise County News


UPDATE: Jury considering verdict for Eric Ridenour, after defending himself in court for Douglas church arson

No witnesses called for defense
2 historic churches in Douglas destroyed in fire
Posted at 11:56 AM, Jul 10, 2024

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The jury is now considering a verdict for Eric Ridenour, the defendant representing himself in the case of the two burned historic churches in Douglas in May of 2023, rested Wednesday without calling any witnesses.

Ridenour has made it clear his whole case will be based on his closing arguments. In earlier court hearings he said he planned to base his case on the Bible.

We had been expecting a long statement from Ridenour, perhaps claiming the Bible was guiding his actions. Instead he cited a verse from the Bible that said no one should be making sworn oaths. Since in court every witness takes that sort of oath, Ridenour basically stated he found the whole court process invalid. That left the jury to go and decide the verdict.

The Prosecution based its case on accounts of Ridenour calling gay or female church leaders an 'abomination to God'. At the time of the fires, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church had a gay pastor, and First Presbyterian’s pastor is a woman.

Jury will continue deliberations Thursday in Eric Ridenour arson trial

The court heard testimony from the pastors of the two churches.

The now-former pastor at St. Stephen's Episcopal, who has since transferred to a church in Mesa, described Ridenour as 'upset' upon finding out the pastor was a gay man with a husband, testifying Ridenour said that went against the Bible.

First Presbyterian Pastor Peggy Christiansen says she did not have any direct contact with Ridenour. Christiansen testified to the trauma of learning the church was on fire.

Arson investigators found an empty bottle of charcoal lighter fluid in the wreckage at one of the churches. The prosecution showed jurors store security video of a man who looked like Ridenour buying the same sort of fluid a few months before the fires.

Evidence also included video of a car that matched Ridenour’s near the churches as the fires broke out. 

Jurors considered the case for less than an hour this afternoon. They’ll be back at 8 am.

Ridenour faces six counts in all. There are two arson counts. Each has the potential for up to 20 years in Federal prison.


Prosecutors in Douglas arson case point to homophobic, sexist remarks as motive

Douglas church arson trial continues


Trial in church arson case begins with defendant acting as own lawyer