San Diego, CA, February 3, 2013
A 38-year-old man was being held Sunday
on suspicion of arson after an early-morning fire
caused heavy damage to a Greek Orthodox Church in
unincorporated El Cajon.
Darin Williams, who had been renting a room from one of
the church’s parishioners, faces charges of arson,
burglary and committing a hate crime in connection with
the 4 a.m. fire at St. Gregory of Nyssa Greek Orthodox
Christian Church, off Jamacha Road near Hidden Mesa Road.
The Rev. Simeon Corona said the blaze originated in an
outdoor patio area adjacent to a house where members
worshipped. Firefighters punched holes in the ceiling of
the main house after smoke spread to the attic, Corona
The blaze, which was reported by a neighbor, was
extinguished after about 45 minutes, according to the Cal
Fire/San Miguel Fire District, whose crews put out the
blaze in collaboration with firefighters from Heartland
Fire and the Lakeside Fire Protection District.
There were no injuries. Early estimates of the damage to
the structure and its contents totaled close to $250,000,
according to the San Diego Sheriff’s Arson Unit.
On Sunday morning, children and adults bundled up for the
cold weather gathered for their regular weekly service.
They sat outside, facing a makeshift altar set up in the
church’s garage with some icons and vestments
rescued from the fire.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said member Chris
Psillas. “But nobody was hurt. This is all
The church, founded about 20 years ago, has about 80
families, Corona said, with between 60 and 80 people who
normally attend services.
The church had been using the house for the past six
years, Psillas said, with plans to eventually build a
permanent church building on the site. He said the
building is insured.
The Sheriff’s Department reported Sunday that the
investigation was continuing, and detectives were working
with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and
Explosives to determine how the suspected arson blaze was
set. The Sheriff’s Department did not discuss what
might have prompted Williams to set the fire.
Corona said he has known Williams for a dozen years and
described him as “a troubled man” who has been
in and out of psychiatric hospitals. Corona said he had
arranged for Williams to live at the house of a
Corona said he had been overseeing Williams’
financial situation for the past year and was in charge of
receiving Williams’ checks and paying his bills.
Williams was released this month from a psychiatric
institution and had regained control of his finances,
Corona said. The priest said Williams became upset when
Corona told him that he could no longer stay at the
parishioner’s house if he did not continue taking
Williams is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday.
U-T San Diego
4 февраля 2013 г.