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Montgomery woman faces federal charges for church arson

The woman is accused of setting four fires at a historic Montgomery church, resulting in thousands of dollars of damage.


The U.S. Attorney’s office announced that it has filed federal charges against a Montgomery woman accused of committing arson at Montgomery First Baptist Church last month. 

Xiaoquin Yan, 27, is charged under a federal statute making it a crime to intentionally destroy or damage any building or personal property. Yan is accused of setting four fires inside the historic church on Sept. 29, resulting in thousands of dollars of damage. 

The indictment filed on Friday also provides additional details on Yan’s arrest and her history with First Baptist. According to the documents, First Baptist pastor Mark Bethea told agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms that he had escorted a small Asian woman off the church’s property on Sept. 26 because she was behaving erratically. 

Several other church members or employees also reported interactions with an Asian woman they believed to be Yan in the weeks leading up to the fires. Those interviews included details of numerous people witnessing an Asian woman with a duffel bag with what appeared to be white wires protruding from it. 

The same woman, according to the indictment, questioned custodians at the church about the positioning of security cameras and asked for a tour of the building. 

Following one incident, in which the church’s security team said an Asian female was behaving erratically, security personnel took down a license plate number from the female’s car. That license plate number was traced back to a 2001 Buick LeSabre registered to Yan. 

Following the fires, ATF agents reviewed security footage from the church and surrounding businesses. An older Buick LeSabre matching the one registered to Yan was seen leaving the church at a high rate of speed in the early morning hours of Sept. 30. 

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That led agents to Yan’s home, and a subsequent search of the residence found blue duffel bags and a gas canister. 

If convicted, Yan faces up to 20 years in prison. She also faces arson charges in Montgomery.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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