CLEARFIELD – A Punxsutawney man is in Clearfield County Jail for allegedly setting a Bell Township church on fire three years ago.
Codey D. Schlemmer, 21, faces counts including arson, burglary and ethnic intimidation for the incident that destroyed the Mount Carmel Non-Denominational Church in September 2004.
Police were tipped off by a 20-year-old man who claimed to have been riding around in Schlemmer’s pick-up truck before the incident happened. The informant said he picked up a brick and broke a window on the church, then crawled inside to open the door for Schlemmer.
Investigators learned that Schlemmer lit Bibles on fire.
The 20-year-old also told police that Schlemmer brought a can of what appeared to be black powder with him. He said Schlemmer dumped some out and began lighting it. Another man who had been riding with them broke other windows out of the church.
The trio returned to the church about 15 minutes later with Schlemmer allegedly leaving the truck and going in the church. After another 20 minutes, they returned again, with one man standing at the church door while “Schlemmer made sure the fire was going.”
A 21-year-old man involved in the incident also spoke with investigators, telling a similar story to that of the other man.
He said Schlemmer told him that he was going to burn a church down that night, but the man thought he was joking. He recalled riding past Union Hill Church, but Schlemmer said that was not the church.
The second man also told investigators, according to court documents, that Schlemmer disliked organized religion. He said, “He though religion was a cult.”
Schlemmer declined to talk to police about the situation.
Police also spoke with Bradley McCracken, pastor at Mount Carmel, and he said that between Aug. 6 and Aug. 8 of 2004, the church had been burglarized and damaged.
Electronic equipment was taken, and a 10 Commandments mural was damaged during the incident. What McCracken called a “Nazi”-style ring with an iron cross and a swastika symbol was left at the church.
Investigators showed Schlemmer a photograph of a ring found at the scene, and he said he had seen Schlemmer wearing it before. The ring featured an iron cross and a swastika symbol.
Schlemmer was arraigned Monday and is being held in Clearfield County Jail in lieu of $50,000 straight bail.