A 35-year-old parolee was found guilty Tuesday of torching St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Hacienda Heights two years ago, causing about $9 million in damage
Gregory Yusuke Shiga of Hacienda Heights was convicted of five felonies, including aggravated arson, arson of a structure, arson of an inhabited structure, possession of flammable material and second-degree commercial burglary, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Renee Rose.
Rose said Shiga broke into the church’s sanctuary just after midnight April 16, 2011. He saturated rolls of toilet paper with a flammable material and placed them throughout the church. He also used a device to saturate the structure’s walls and ceiling with an accelerant before igniting the blaze, authorities said.
Shiga was arrested May 14, 2012, in Los Angeles after a yearlong investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI. At the time of the arrest, he was on parole. Shiga has a previous conviction for sexual battery.
Jurors deliberated for less than an hour before finding Shiga guilty on all counts, as well as of the special allegations of damage in excess of $3 million, use of an accelerant and multiple buildings burned. Church personnel were present on the grounds at the time of the blaze.
Shiga is to be sentenced July 19 by L.A. County Superior Court Judge Thomas Falls, who could give him life in prison.