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L.A. County to pay out $10,000 reward in church arson fire

Four witnesses who helped convict church arsonist will share $10,000 reward

Four people who helped authorities track down and prosecute a man who set a Hacienda Heights church on fire in 2011 will share a $10,000 reward, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors said Tuesday.

The reward was offered by the board three days after the April 16, 2011, fire ravaged St. John Vianney Catholic Church, causing more than $8.5 million in damage.

Information from witnesses helped investigators from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department arrest Gregory Yusuke Shiga, who was later charged with arson, acting county CEO Patrick Ogawa said in a letter written to the supervisors.

During his trial, multiple witnesses testified  they saw Shiga at the church on the night of the fire and in preceding weeks, when he allegedly made reconnaissance visits around the parish property.

Authorities didn't identify a motive, but testimony revealed that Shiga resented the Catholic Church and questioned its legitimacy, wealth and the conduct of its priests.

Although not a victim of sexual abuse, Shiga liked to portray the arson as vengeance on behalf of those who were victims of clergy molestation, prosecutors said.

A jury convicted Shiga of four counts of aggravated arson and one count of burglary in July 2013 after less than an hour of deliberations.

A Superior Court judge sentenced him to 18 years to life in state prison and ordered him to pay $8.9 million in restitution.

Announcing the reward Tuesday, Supervisor Don Knabe thanked each witness.

“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," Knabe said.

Under the terms of the reward approved by county leaders, one witness will receive $8,500 while three others will split the remaining $1,500.

Each supervisor will allocate $2,000 from his discretionary fund to pay for the reward.

For breaking news in California, follow @MattHjourno. He can be reached at matt.hamilton@latimes.com.

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