San Marcos teen indicted for Austin synagogue fire

SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) — A San Marcos teenager was formally charged for starting the Austin synagogue fire last year.

A grand jury indicted 19-year-old Franklin Barrett Sechriest on Wednesday on three charges related to the fire started at Congregation Beth Israel on Halloween. He was charged with arson, damage to religious property and use of fire to commit a federal crime.

Sechriest was reportedly caught on surveillance video visiting the synagogue a few nights before the fire was started. The security footage also captured the 19-year-old on video on Oct. 31 when he was recorded carrying a five-gallon container and toilet paper towards the sanctuary Congregation Beth Israel and then a short time later leaving the sanctuary after the fire was started into an open driver’s side for of a vehicle.

Officials said they were able to identify Sechriest after his vehicle’s license plate was registered to a parent, who he lives with, and noted the vehicle was seen driving to and from Texas State University, where he was a student.

A search of his home turned up the items seen in the surveillance video, clothing similar to the suspect’s, a receipt for the five-gallon container, prosecutors said.

According to the federal criminal complaint affidavit, a special agent with the FBI also found the commonly used components to create Molotov cocktails, including three 33 oz. glass bottles, three 32 oz. bottles of lighter fluid, a lighter and storm-proof matches inside Sechriest’s vehicle when it was searched in addition to three stickers with anti-Semitic imagery.

Image from federal criminal complaint affidavit / A photo of items recovered from Sechriest’s vehicle as part of the federal arson investigation

Officials said Sechriest faces up to 30 years in prison for damage to religious property, up to 20 years for the charge of arson and a mandatory sentence of 10 years for use of fire to commit a federal crime to run consecutive to the other sentences.

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