UPDATE: Cochise County man to face federal charges in connection with Douglas church fires

Eric Ridenour
Eric Ridenour(Cochise County Sheriff's Office)
Published: May. 24, 2023 at 12:22 PM MST|Updated: May. 25, 2023 at 4:08 PM MST
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DOUGLAS, Ariz. (13 News) - A Cochise County man is awaiting transfer to federal custody after his arrest in connection with fires at two Douglas, Arizona, churches.

Douglas police say Eric Ridenour will face an arson-related charge in federal court under 18 USC § 844(i).

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church and First Presbyterian Church were damaged by fires that happened Monday, May 22.

Arson investigators from Douglas Police, Douglas Fire, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Gilbert Fire and the Federal Bureau of Investigation determined that the cause of the fires was intentional.

The criminal complaint states surveillance footage showed at 10:38 a.m. on May 22, a blue Pontiac Aztec parked west of Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church and a male subject got out holding a plastic bag before disappearing from view. Four minutes later, the subject is seen walking back toward the vehicle and toward the First Presbyterian Church.

The complaint states the person in the video then “entered the area between the church’s hall and classroom buildings and out of view of the camera.”

The complaint shows “at 10:45 a.m., the subject reappeared on camera on the southern sidewalk in the 700 block of 10th Street.”

The complaint then states “at 10:46 a.m, the subject entered the Pontiac Aztec and drove west along the alley toward E Avenue. At this time, smoke is seen emanating from the uninhabited two-story residence attached to Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church.”

The criminal complaint shows ATF agents determined the only Pontiac Aztec registered to an individual in Douglas, Arizona was registered to Eric Ridenour.

A search warrant was executed at Ridenour’s home on May 23 where an ATF canine detected the presence of accelerants on pants found outside the residence. Those pants matched the appearance of the pants worn by the person in the surveillance video. A green hat that matched the appearance of the hat worn by the person in the surveillance video was found inside the vehicle. The ATF canine detected accelerants on shoes worn by Ridenour, which the complaint shows matched the description of those worn by the person in the video.

The criminal complaint also states surveillance video from Walmart in Douglas showed Ridenour wearing those same clothes the day the fires started.

Ridenour was arrested without incident.

The motive behind the fires is not known and the investigation is continuing.

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