Former pastor’s son set fire to Winterport church, himself

Firefighters from numerous departements pull back as the roof collapses on the Calvary Apostolic Church in Winterport on Thursday, May 5, 2011.
Kevin Bennett | BDN
Firefighters from numerous departements pull back as the roof collapses on the Calvary Apostolic Church in Winterport on Thursday, May 5, 2011.
Posted May 06, 2011, at 3:40 p.m.
Last modified May 08, 2011, at 2:41 p.m.
Officials with the Maine State Fire Marshals office and the ATF investigate a fire at the Calvary Apostolic Church in Winterport on Friday.
Officials with the Maine State Fire Marshals office and the ATF investigate a fire at the Calvary Apostolic Church in Winterport on Friday.
Officials with the Maine State Fire Marshal's Office investigate a fire at the Calvary Apostolic Church in Winterport on Friday.
Officials with the Maine State Fire Marshal's Office investigate a fire at the Calvary Apostolic Church in Winterport on Friday.
Leo LaChance former Winterport town manager
Leo LaChance former Winterport town manager
Officials with the Maine State Fire Marshals office investigate a fire at the Calvary Apostolic Church in Winterport on Friday.
Officials with the Maine State Fire Marshals office investigate a fire at the Calvary Apostolic Church in Winterport on Friday.
A firefighter peers into the front door of the Cavalry Apostolic Church in Winterport on Thursday, May 5, 2011.
Kevin Bennett | BDN
A firefighter peers into the front door of the Cavalry Apostolic Church in Winterport on Thursday, May 5, 2011.
Members of the Calvary Apostolic Church in Winterport comfort each other as firetrucks continue to roll into the parking lot to extingush the multistory church building. A man died at the scene as a result of the blaze.
Kevin Bennett | BDN
Members of the Calvary Apostolic Church in Winterport comfort each other as firetrucks continue to roll into the parking lot to extingush the multistory church building. A man died at the scene as a result of the blaze.
Officials with the Maine State Fire Marshals office investigate a fire at the Calvary Apostolic Church in Winterport on Friday, May 6, 2011. A body was recovered from the scene on Thursday and is being autopsied by the medical examiner.
Kevin Bennett
Officials with the Maine State Fire Marshals office investigate a fire at the Calvary Apostolic Church in Winterport on Friday, May 6, 2011. A body was recovered from the scene on Thursday and is being autopsied by the medical examiner.
A church member stands her van and stares in disbelief as she watches the Calvary Apostolic Church in Winterport burn.
Kevin Bennett | BDN
A church member stands her van and stares in disbelief as she watches the Calvary Apostolic Church in Winterport burn.
A member of the Calvary Apostolic Church in Winterport is comforted after seeing the smouldering remains of the church on Thursday, May 5, 2011.
Kevin Bennett | BDN
A member of the Calvary Apostolic Church in Winterport is comforted after seeing the smouldering remains of the church on Thursday, May 5, 2011.

WINTERPORT, Maine — A young man found burned to death outside a church on Thursday doused the inside of the building and then himself with a flammable liquid and lit a fire in what police have ruled a suicide.

Wilbur “Wes” Strout, 20, of Hancock started the blaze inside the Calvary Apostolic Church on U.S. Route 1A in Winterport, according to police, and later jumped out a second floor window as the building burned.

Strout’s charred body was discovered by firefighters who responded to reports of smoke around 10 a.m. Thursday, May 5, designated as the National Day of Prayer.

Strout was the son of the church’s former pastor, according to Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

The church, on Route 1A a few miles north of the Winterport town center, was in flames by the time firefighters arrived. Hours later, the entire structure was destroyed.

As investigators sorted through the blackened rubble Friday morning, officials with the State Medical Examiner’s Office worked to positively identify Strout’s body.

Investigators had suspected that the victim was Strout after they found his car parked in the church’s parking lot and discovered a journal and Bible inside. According to McCausland, Strout’s journal contained several rambling entries but nothing to indicate why he would have set fire to the church or to himself.

McCausland said investigators determined that Strout broke into the church through a rear window sometime Thursday morning and spread a flammable liquid throughout the worship area and in front of the altar. He then doused himself and lit the fire, which spread quickly throughout the expansive church.

At some point, Strout tried to leave the building through an upstairs window. His body was badly burned when firefighters arrived.

On Friday, with help from one of the State Fire Marshal Office’s arson dogs, investigators discovered a number of areas in the rubble where evidence of a flammable liquid, or accelerant, was found.

McCausland indicated that Strout had lived with his father in North Carolina until recently when the young man moved back to Maine. He was a member of the Calvary Apostolic Church, a United Pentecostal church that serves as many as 200 congregants in Winterport and surrounding towns.

Previously published stories in the Bangor Daily News dating back to the 1990s referenced the Rev. Wilbur Strout as the pastor of Calvary Apostolic Church. Additionally, information from the website for the Heavenview Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., identified the Rev. Wilbur Strout as having a son, Wes, who was born in 1991.

The investigation into the fire is considered complete. The church’s current pastor, the Rev. Tom Channel, who declined Thursday to talk about what happened, could not be reached for comment Friday.

It was not clear whether the church will be rebuilt or where its congregants will meet in the immediate future.

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