Real Name: Matthews-Murkland Presbyterian Church
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee
Date: January 8, 1996
Details: Originally known as the Matthews-Murkland Presbyterian Church, the location was reopened by Green Bay Packer Reggie White in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1993. Reggie, who is an ordained minister, re-named it the Inner City Church. The church was a gathering place for both blacks and whites in the local community. On January 8, 1996, an unidentified person set it on fire with kerosene, gunpowder, and several Molotov cocktails, and it was destroyed as a result. Although certain parts of the building were destroyed, others were not damaged.
The FBI and the ATF began an investigation; they found racial epithets on the walls, and they were certain that it was a hate crime. They soon learned that at least twenty-three black churches in the South had been set on fire, presumably by the same individual. Along with Tennessee, the attacks have occurred in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South and North Carolina, and Virginia. The most recent attack occurred on March 5, 1996. The church did not have enough fire insurance to cover all of the damage. However, Reggie hopes that he will be able to rebuild the church and bring the perpetrator to justice.
Suspects: Police believe that the arsonist is responsible for over twenty church fires in the area, and that racism may have been involved. They do not believe that the arsonist was a professional.
Three days after the Inner City Church fire, fliers from two White Supremacist groups (the BFI Brotherhood and Skinheads for White Justice) turned up at a bank that had ties to the church. However, there is a possibility that the fliers and graffiti were planted as decoys.
Extra Notes: This case was featured as a part of the March 29, 1996 episode.
Results: Unsolved. Sadly, Reggie White died of a heart attack in 2004 without ever finding out who set fire to his church, nor was he able to rebuild it. Original suspicions was that the case was similar to other area arsons of churches, but investigators ruled that out. The arsonist has never been identified, and the case is still open.
- Reggie White at Wikipedia
- Packer Reggie White preaches that God can raise a man to the super bowl and a church from ruins
- 20 years unsolved: Inner City Church arson case