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Arrest made in LDS church fires in South Salt Lake

Published November 1, 2010 1:47 pm

Crime • South Salt Lake police say man, 26, took responsibility for the two church blazes.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

South Salt Lake police Sunday arrested a man in connection with fires that damaged two LDS meetinghouses over the weekend.

Patrick Ehat, 26, of Salt Lake City, was arrested and booked into the Salt Lake County jail on suspicion of arson, burglary and criminal mischief, said South Salt Lake police Detective Gary Keller.

"He did take responsibility for the church fires," Keller said. "We haven't established a motive at this time. It's still under investigation. ... We're just glad we have this person off the street and people can feel safe in their communities."

South Salt Lake firefighters put out two blazes at Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meetinghouses Saturday morning. The first fire destroyed a chapel in the building at 3219 S. 300 East about 3:30 a.m.

Damage was reported to exceed $1 million.

Three hours later, firefighters were called to an LDS church at 2702 S. Main. The fire caused minor smoke and water damage to the building.

Keller said Ehat had injuries consistent with climbing through a broken window. Police believe he acted alone.

Ehat's parents, Stephen and Jeanine Ehat, said they have had limited contact with their son in recent months. They have cooperated with law enforcement in the arson investigation, the couple said in a written statement.

The couple can't speculate about their son's motive, but believe "medical professionals will assess his mental health," they wrote, and are grieved at the damage caused.

Investigators are still trying to determine what caused a fire at a vacant South Salt Lake home less than an hour after the second LDS church was set ablaze, police said.

Bishop Matt Parson, of the Miller Ward, the congregation that meets in the building on 300 East, said he does not know Ehat.

A ward directory lists a Pat Ehat as a member.

Sunday services for ward members took place in another meetinghouse, Parson said.

"I know it was challenging for some people because the building has been special to us for so long," Parson said. "We've all shared special experiences there and to have it destroyed that way would be hard for anyone."

Parson hopes the arrest brings "closure" to the incident.

"It's nice not having to just wonder who did it," he said. "We'll move on. They'll rebuild or repair [the building] and it will be better than it was before."

afalk@sltrib.com