Upshur County Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Moore told the Rotary Club Tuesday about some of the major cases he’s been involved in during 30-some years in law enforcement.
Until recently, he was an investigator with the Sheriff’s Office, specializing in arson cases. He and his K-9 Nina were much in demand, not only probing suspected arsons in Upshur County, but throughout Northeast Texas.
They helped the FBI, DPS, and Smith and Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Offices crack a case in January, 2010, in which 10 churches in Smith and Van Zandt Counties were torched.
The two young men responsible are now each serving three life sentences for their crimes.
Nina, five years old, who was with Moore 24/7 throughout her working career, has been retired and has been adopted by Moore.
At the time Nina was working, she was one of only 59 accelerant-sniffing dogs in the U.S., and she and Moore had been certified by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Academy, graduating on Nov. 15, 2006.
Now, he has transferred to work security at the Gilmer Bruce Junior High School campus, still under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff’s Office.
He told Rotarians that this month is the anniversary of the rash of church fires which hit Northeast Texas in January of last year.
He got a call from the fire marshal about church fires in Van Zandt County.
Moore worked that case for a month and 14 days, before the combined law enforcement efforts paid off in arrests of the two perpetrators.
“(TV) Shows like CSI are malarkey,” he said. “You don’t solve a crime in 30 minutes.”
He said it was DNA evidence which resulted in solving the cases.
“It was a lengthy process,” he said.
At a burned church building in Wills Point, investigators found a single fingerprint on a piece of glass.
At another location, they were able to get the DNA off a rock that had apparently been used to try to break down the door to the pastor’s office.
To get a sample for comparison, undercover investigators followed one of the perpetrators until he threw away a cigarette butt. They snatched it up and got DNA from his contact with it.
He told Rotarians what accelerant was used, and different ways arsonists could start fires.
(This information is being purposefully omitted here.)
The two men had no previous criminal history, and their motives are unknown.
One was the son of a church secretary. Another had been an Eagle Scout.
At one time, the pair had attended church together.
Moore said there was some speculation that one man was mad at God because his mother had died of cancer.
Moore said some thought the three life sentences for each was harsh, but “there was every indication that if they were out (of prison), they would go on burning churches.”
He said that investigators had received information that churches in Upshur County were about to be targeted at the time the two were arrested.
Moore said that he had transferred to school security, because “it was the only thing in law enforcement I hadn’t done.” During 25 years with the Longview Police Department, he had risen to Fire Marshal.
He said he thought working with kids would be easy compared to what he had been doing.. Wrong!
Still, he is happy he made the change.
“When you reach them when they’re young, you can still fix them if there’s a problem,” he said. “You can’t fix an adult (who’s gone down the wrong path).”