HOUSTON Sources with the Houston Fire Department on Thursday said the blaze that destroyed a historic Houston church was sparked by an incendiary device, and they believe it was intentionally set.
Fire crews were called to the First New Mount Calvary Baptist Church on Gregg at Noble in the early morning hours of May 12.
When they got there, the entire building was engulfed in flames.
The church, which was first organized in 1917 and rebuilt in 1965, was a total loss.
Fire department sources did not say if they had any suspects in the case.
Meanwhile, the pastor of the church, Tracy Burleson, was in jail Thursday facing murder charges in the shooting death of his wife.
Pauletta Burleson was fatally shot in the driveway of her northeast Harris County home less than a week after the church burned down.
Burleson s son, William Fuller, is also charged with murder in the case, and Burleson s purported mistress, Tyonne Palmer, is charged with evidence tampering.
According to documents read in a probable cause hearing Wednesday, Fuller told investigators he shot and killed his stepmother in a murder-for-hire plot devised byhis father a claim the pastor denies.
I would never tell my son to do anything like that, Pastor Burleson said in a jailhouse interview Wednesday. I didn t pay my son. I didn t have no money to pay my son.
On the night of the shooting, Burleson told police he and his wife had been in a fight. He said he d gone to the store to buy some potato chips and a candy bar, and when he returned, he found her body in the driveway.
Investigators said they found holes in that story. Investigators said the pastor did not have any chips or candy bars in his possession when he returned, and the store he claimed to have bought them from closed at 10 p.m. that night.
I was already eating them and at the same time I didn t think I would come home and find my wife shot, said Burleson.
As for Palmer, Burleson admitted that she was his mistress and said he recently found out she was romantically involved with his son, too.
He said he wanted to apologize to his congregation for being unfaithful, but denied he had anything to do with Pauletta Burleson s slaying.
I want them to know that I love being the pastor at the church and I am so sorry for the adultery. But I want them to know I did not kill my wife, Burleson said.
In a separate probable cause hearing Wednesday, the alleged mistress, Tyonne Palmer, went before a judge.
Investigators said Palmer assisted the gunman after he called and told her the pastor s wife had been shot.
According to police reports, Palmer picked up the gunman, drove him to get cleaned up and assisted in burning the gun used in the shooting.
The judge set Palmer s bond at $50,000.
Burleson, Palmer and Fuller were all scheduled to appear in court again Thursday.