Man denies arson charge in Vt. church fire
The Associated Press | October 24,2013
BURLINGTON - A Burlington man was charged Wednesday with setting fire to an historic church downtown.
Alaiksandr Bychkou, 32, told authorities that voices told him there was a treasure in the steeple at the College Street Congregational Church, according to a police affidavit.
Police were called at 5:34 a.m. after the custodian at the College Street Congregational Church found a door open and heard someone in the steeple.
Bychkou was found inside and was initially taken into custody on a charge of unlawful trespass, police said. Shortly afterward, the bell tower erupted in flames.
Bychkou pleaded not guilty Wednesday afternoon to second-degree arson and burglary and was jailed for lack of $25,000 bail.
A judge ordered him to undergo a mental health evaluation.
The fire was largely contained to the church steeple and the building is not a total loss, Fire Chief Seth Lasker said. A church official told the Burlington Free Press that engineers determined that the steeple must be removed.
"Engineers have told us that we need to take it down before it falls down," said Nick Hardin, a member of the College Street Congregational Church.