Convicted Arsonist McAllister Was 'Definitely A Follower'
By KENNETH DEAN
A bored follower lured into last year's string East Texas church arsons, Daniel George McAllister has asked for forgiveness and wants to rebuild a relationship with God.
McAllister, 23, has at least 15 years behind bars to think about his role in the blazes that destroyed 10 churches from Jan. 1 to Feb. 8 last year.
McAllister and Jason Robert Bourque have been convicted of multiple counts of arson with McAllister receiving five life sentences and Bourque receiving 10 life sentences and a 20-year sentence for an attempted arson.
In a videotaped interview with investigators after his arrest, McAllister said he once asked Bourque about why he torched churches, and the response was to "teach the church members they were not all high and mighty."
When asked when he took part, McAllister, who only completed the ninth grade while being homeschooled, he got involved after the Little Hope Baptist and Faith Church in Athens burned on Jan. 1.
When asked for specifics on those two churches, McAllister said, "No. He just told me it was him. He went in looking for money or something to take to get cash, and he was standing in there and just thought, 'Hmm, I am just going to burn it.'"
After telling McAllister about the fires, Bourque asked whether he wanted to ride along.
"I was like, 'OK,'" he said, adding that marijuana was part of the equation. "I was bored and didn't have anything else to do. I did not really know what we were going to do until we were already at the place."
Former ATF agent Larry Smith, who worked on the case, said he hopes that while McAllister is imprisoned, he will develop the skills to no longer be a follower.
"He is definitely a follower who at the time appeared to have been affected greatly by drug use," Smith said. "The person I shook hands with yesterday in Van Zandt County is a different person than I interviewed last year when he was first apprehended."
Smith said Bourque, who was controlling and dominating, easily manipulated McAllister.
McAllister said he was present for the Grace Community and Lake Athens Baptist churches fires in mid-January and continued to be with Bourque for the other fires even though he knew he eventually would be arrested.
"I didn't burn any of the churches, but I was there, and that was bad enough," he said. "I was walking through churches looking for stuff to take while he was catching them on fire. I wasn't into that, but he was. After we would leave, Jason would drive back by to see them, and I wouldn't even look because I didn't want to see."
McAllister asked church members to forgive him and said he has plans to become a better person.
Smith said McAllister has a good family support unit that is standing by their loved one, and he believes the man can change his life.
"I believe if he keeps this attitude that he can be a productive member of society when he is released from prison," Smith said.