Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe. Photo by John Schreiber.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe. Photo by John Schreiber.

Four witnesses who helped authorities convict a man who set fire to a church in Hacienda Heights will split a $10,000 reward, under action taken Tuesday by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Don Knabe thanked the witnesses.

“I’m thankful these individuals came forward with their critical eyewitness accounts of the fire at St. John Vianney,” Knabe said. “Justice has been served, and the residents who chose not to stand by and let their community suffer at the hands of an arsonist are being rewarded for their information.”

The fire, reported just after midnight on April 16, 2011, destroyed the 20,000-square-foot-plus Catholic church at 1345 Turnbull Canyon Road. It also damaged an adjacent rectory, from which two sleeping priests narrowly escaped, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

Gregory Yusuke Shiga was arrested in May 2012 for intentionally setting the fire and was convicted in July 2013 of four arson-related counts and one count of burglary. He was sentenced to 18 years to life in prison and ordered to pay $8.9 million in restitution to the church.

Prosecutors said Shiga broke into the sanctuary, saturated toilet paper rolls with a flammable liquid and placed them around the church. He also opened windows and sprayed an accelerant on the church’s walls and ceiling.

No motive was disclosed during his trial.

Knabe urged witnesses to other crimes to reach out to police.

“If you witness a crime in your community, please report it immediately to law enforcement,” he said.

City News Service

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