Marshalltown police say a man admitted to breaking into a building belonging to Saint Mary’s Catholic Church and setting it on fire overnight and they say he also admitted to arson in another recent fire.
Firefighters were called to the old Saint Mary Convent building at 12 West Linn Street around 12:30 Monday morning. Witnesses reported seeing flames coming from the building.
The fire left behind significant damage, but no one was injured.
A couple of hours later, 48-year-old Van Allen Gentry went to the police department and admitted to breaking into the building and starting the fire. He also told officers he set another fire on Sunday.
The church’s Hispanic Ministry was located in this building. The ministry also provided counseling, translators, and even assistance with immigration applications. “I think everybody that belongs to Saint Mary’s feels that Saint Mary’s is their home, and a part of their home is gone,” said director of Hispanic Ministry Christine Fegan.
Gentry was arrested and is now charged with arson and burglary. He’s being held in the Marshall County Jail.