Chinese woman who set historic Alabama church on fire in 2021 charged

Chinese woman who set historic Alabama church on fire in 2021 chargedChinese woman who set historic Alabama church on fire in 2021 charged
via First Baptist Church Montgomery
Bryan Ke
June 9, 2023
A federal jury has convicted the woman who set the historic First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, ablaze in 2021.
Recent development: Xiaoqin Yan, 29, was found guilty of “arson and possession of a firearm by an illegal alien” on Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Sandra J. Stewart’s office announced.
Yan, a Chinese national who was staying in the U.S. on a student visa, is expected to serve up to 20 years in jail once her sentencing is handed to her at a later date.
Key details: Court records and evidence presented at the trial found Yan to be the main suspect behind the fire that was ignited inside the Montgomery church on the morning of Sept. 30, 2021.
Surveillance footage reportedly showed a woman visiting the church a day before the fire. Around 2 a.m. on the day of the crime, she was filmed igniting multiple fires inside the church.
The aftermath: During the investigation, detectives learned that a person matching Yan’s description was reportedly spotted on the church’s grounds, while another witness, a church staff member, told authorities that they had escorted her out because of her “odd behavior.”
xiaoqin yan
Xiaoqin Yan. via Montgomery County Detention Facility
Arrested: During her initial arrest on Oct. 4, 2021, investigators said they found several items matching the ones carried by the woman in the surveillance footage, including two blue duffel bags with white writing and a red gas container.
They also said they found a handgun, which Yan was in illegal possession of since she had overstayed her non-immigrant visa, thereby making her ineligible to lawfully own any firearms.
Other details: Yan was initially charged on Oct. 8, 2021.
Court documents reportedly revealed she had caused $25,000 worth of damages, forcing the church’s members to conduct their first service after the arson at a parking lot across the street. They were able to hold services in the church again in July 2022.

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