Katie Moore / Eyewitness News
NEW SARPY, La. -- The St. Charles Parish Sheriff's office searched for two alleged metal thieves Tuesday, who they say they believe may have burned a church down while trying to make an illegal buck.
The fire started Monday night at the River of Life Christian Church in New Sarpy.
The three-alarm fire took everything from the small congregation.
“They couldn't put it out. For some reason, it just wouldn't go out,” said Pastor Curtis Stacey as he walked through the burned-out shell of his church.
“I'm trying my best right now to keep my composure,” he said.
Even in the darkness Monday night, the church glowed with intense heat and flames shooting into the air.
“It seemed as though the more water they put on it, the worse it got,” Stacey said.
Flames tore first through the storage trailer behind the church, then the little brick building itself.
Tuesday, the paint looked melted off the walls, at least the ones that were still standing.
“It was gut-wrenching. It almost keep me from crying because we upgraded the church. We put the Internet in. We were electronic,” said Barbara Hebert-Evans, evangelist at the church.
As if the fire wasn't bad enough, the pastor and his family spent Tuesday picking up the pieces, trying to salvage what they could.
Their biggest problem was they didn't have insurance.
“It could be our life. You know? So, I thank the Lord for that,” said Sang Stacey, the pastor’s wife.
Earlier on Monday night, a neighbor saw two men taking things out of the storage trailer.
“We knew that Vallero was going to tear [the trailer] down, so we didn't think nothing of it,” Stacey said.
The refinery next door to the church was going to start building the church a new shed on Tuesday.
Turns out, investigators said they believe the two men were thieves allegedly trying to steal the aluminum from the trailer.
“We actually went to their homes and found the materials that were missing from their trailer,” said St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Captain Patrick Yoes.
They also found one of the church’s signs at the home.
Deputies searched Tuesday for 60-year-old Jerry Cotton and 38-year-old Mark Bailey. Both lived down the street from the church.
“It looks like they were probably cutting metal and they were probably using torches in doing so,” Yoes said.
That's how they think the fire started. The State Fire Marshall’s Office was still investigating the cause Tueseday. The irony is, the church was getting rid of the trailer Tuesday.
“They could've asked and we would've gave it to them,” Stacey said.
The church didn't have insurance and was hoping to rebuild.
If you'd like to help, you can send donations to River of Life Christian Fellowship Church at P.O. Box 417, New Sarpy, LA, 70078.