A Burlington man, who authorities say was involved in satanic activities, pleaded guilty today to charges that he started a fire that destroyed an historic church last April. Twenty-nine year old Kevin Ravelin will be sentenced at a later date, but the plea agreement states he will serve 35 years in a federal prison without the possibility for parole.
The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, Matt Whitaker, calls Ravelin’s decision to take responsibility for the fire "admirable," saying it will avoid putting church officials and others through a lengthy court process. Ravelin was charged with arson for destroying the First United Methodist Church in downtown Burlington. Ravelin also started a fire at another nearby church, which was not damaged.
Whitaker said, "I think it is a very just result for this person that caused these fires to go to prison for 35 years." The First United Methodist Church was built in 1888. "We’re never going to be able to heal the entire wound that this fire caused…at the same time, I think (the congregation) will have some closure by knowing that there was an individual responsible that was held accountable," Whitaker said.
Police say they found items in Ravelin’s home that indicated he was involved in satanic activities. He was charged with a hate crime for "obstruction of the free exercise of religion."