Nazarene Church Burnt Cross

Jim LaRue, a volunteer at  Turning Leaf of the Nazarene Church, said an arsonist burned a cross on the church property.

Jim LaRue had one question, the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 15:

“Who burns a cross?”

LaRue, a Glendale resident, is a volunteer with Turning Leaf of the Nazarene Church, which is raising funds to build a permanent church in unincorporated Maricopa County on North Litchfield Road near Bethany Home Road. “We’re going to start building in two weeks,” LaRue said.

He said the church was alerted late Sept. 14 by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office that a 12-foot-tall cross on church property was on fire.

The fire went out on its own, and LaRue said the MSCO advised it was an accidental fire, likely caused by batteries used to light the cross at night.

After looking at the cross, LaRue did not think it was an accidental fire.

“It was a definite arson,” LaRue said. “There is more damage at the bottom of the cross than the top.”

And, LaRue said, a trail camera that was mounted on the cross was damaged — but he was able to retrieve photos from the camera’s memory card.

“I also have numerous pictures from the trail cam showing the fire starting and the person involved,” LaRue said.

He said the man in the photo is wearing a baseball cap, approximately 6 feet tall with a slender build.

LaRue described the cross as a neighborhood landmark. “We’re surrounded by Glendale and 30 feet north of Litchfield Park,” said LaRue.

The Glendale Star emailed MCSO to ask about the incident. A reply was not received by press time.

While the church is being built, Turning Leaf of the Nazarene Church meets at Heritage Elementary School, 6805 N. 125th Avenue, Glendale.

Services recently started again (with mask and social distancing guidelines) after a  pause during the COVID-19 pandemic. For information, visit turningleafchurch.com.