Arson arrest eases fears at Valrico church

Published January 22, 2006

VALRICO - Members of St. Mark United Church of Christ have wondered since April who torched one of their church buildings and tore their church banner to shreds.

On Dec. 23, Robert Anthony Foor, 23, of 1904 Chestnut Wood Drive was arrested and charged with first-degree arson in connection with the church burning.

In an arrest affidavit, a sheriff's deputy wrote that Foor had been "bragging about setting the fire."

Foor's arrest was a relief, said Heidi Adams, the church's office manager.

Some in the church had feared the arson was politically motivated because the church had been advertising its acceptance of lesbians and gays. But Adams said investigators told her the crime appeared to be random.

"A crime of opportunity is how they described it to us," she said.

"We feel better," Adams said. "It was not a hate crime as we had suspected ... that's a lot easier to take."

Since the fire, the church has moved on, she said. It has sold off the acre that held the storage structure that was burned. The congregation has plans to build a replacement as a wing on the main church building at 2914 Lithia Pinecrest Road, Adams said.

Foor was being held Saturday in a Hillsborough County jail, county records show.

S.I. Rosenbaum can be reached at 813 661-2442 or srosenbaum@sptimes.com