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No bond for Douglas arson suspect based on findings of "dangerousness"

Prosecution made the case Thursday that community members are fearful of the man who has openly expressed a belief that women and gay men should not lead churches
Posted at 6:32 PM, Jun 15, 2023

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The man charged with burning two Douglas churches will not be in bond pending trial, a Federal judge decided late Thursday.

The Magistrate Judge Lynette Kimmins' decision is based on what the courts call "dangerousness." She had to decide if releasing defendant Eric Ridenour on bond would endanger the community and leave people in fear. She decided the answer was yes.

Kimmins based her decision in part on claims Eric Ridenour was prejudiced against women and gays in church leadership, information that had been prepared by the prosecution prior to the Thursday court appearance.

St. Stephen's Episcopal Church is led by an openly gay pastor, and First Presbyterian Church has a female pastor. These were the two churches damaged in the fires in late May.

Pastors of the two churches testified about the fear they have had since the fires. The openly gay pastor of St. Stephen's said the church has received messages from other people who said they are happy the churches burned.

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

Prosecutors say Ridenour was caught on surveillance setting fires to the churches. They say a dog trained to detect fire accelerants confirmed the chemicals were present on some of Ridenour's clothes.

In court documents prepared for discussion on whether Ridenour should be released on bond, prosecutors made new allegations to support their argument that he is dangerous—and a risk to jump bond and disappear.

Prosecutors say congregation members of the two burned churches, as well as other churches in Douglas, are afraid of Ridenour and fear additional danger if he is released on bond.

Prosecutors say Ridenour even built his own church building near his home on the edge of Douglas. Prosecutors also claim two years ago that a man who fits Ridenour's description visited St. Stephen's, asked whether the Episcopal Church allows women to be church leaders, and took photos of the church interior.

To bolster the claim Ridenour will be a threat if out on bond, prosecutors also claim he had a conviction for kicking down an ex-girlfriend's door, and was arrested for violating a protective order:

Ridenour's attorney argued prosecutors had to reach back more than 25 years to find those domestic violence cases and that Ridenour has had a clean record since. They judge ruled defense suggestions like ankle bracelets were not adequate so the ruling was no bond.

Craig Smith is a reporter for KGUN 9. With more than 40 years of reporting in cities like Tampa, Houston and Austin, Craig has covered more than 40 Space Shuttle launches and covered historic hurricanes like Katrina, Ivan, Andrew and Hugo. Share your story ideas and important issues with Craig by emailing or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.