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Court Docs show Douglas arson suspect has negative views of church leadership

Witnesses say Ridenour disapproved of women, gay people in church roles
Posted at 11:52 AM, Jun 15, 2023

In the video player: No bond for Douglas arson suspect

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Eric Ridenour, the man accused of setting fire to two historic churches in Douglas, Ariz. in May, is set to appear in federal court Thursday, May 15.

A Motion for Detention filed by the U.S. Attorney's office describe the defendant Ridenour as a "danger to the community," speculating that his motivations for allegedly setting fire to First Presbyterian and St. Stephens Episcopal Churches had to do with the fact that he had openly expressed disapproval of women and members of the LGBTQ community in church leadership positions.

According to the document, neighbors described Ridenour as "unhappy with the church's views toward worship as the defendant believed that women should not be preaching or leading in prayer."

Ridenour had also been openly working toward starting his own church on his property in Douglas. Another neighbor is quoted in the court document, saying Ridenour "didn't like gays, didn't like politicians, and didn't like women in general leading the church." The pastor of one burned church is a woman, the other is openly gay.

Pastors at both burned churches have stated through legal channels—per the Crime Victims Rights Act—that they have concerns over the safety of of members of the Douglas community should Ridenour be released:

"...the pastors of both victim churches have provided input relaying that their parishioners are terrified of additional danger to their community by the defendant, they are fearful for their congregations, and they have been contacted by other faith leaders in the Douglas and surrounding community who are also fearful for their own churches and their parishioners. The pastors, and other faith leaders, have expressed fear of retribution should the defendant be released. The southeastern Arizona border towns are small communities and the church leaders are easily recognizable."

—Government Motion for Retention, p. 4

The document also cites a pre-trial services report, showing Ridenour:

  • has a prior conviction for domestic violence-related misdemeanor criminal damage
  • has previously violated a protective order
  • has been accused of vandalizing an ex-girlfriend's vehicle
  • has made threats to an ex-wife's fiance over a child custody agreement

KGUN 9 has reached out to attorneys for comment, and will have live coverage following Ridenour's court appearance today.

Douglas church arson timeline