Church Arsonist Sentenced Following Federal Hate Crime Conviction

Almost precisely a year after he set a Colorado church on fire, 22-year-old Darion Ray Sexton learned his fate during a sentencing hearing this week.

According to the Department of Justice, Sexton, who pleaded guilty to federal hate crime charges in May, was sentenced to more than three years in prison for the act of arson in Loveland on Jan. 19, 2023.

As stated in his confession, the DOJ reported that he “admitted that he set this fire by throwing two Molotov cocktails at the church — one a the front door and the other at the basement” and “further admitted that he was motivated to set this fire due to the religious character of the church and that he intended to destroy the church.”

In a statement announcing the sentence, FBI Special Agent Mark D. Michaelk confirmed that the “defendant admitted he set out to destroy this church” and an investigation led to the enhanced hate crime charge.

“FBI Denver worked with the Loveland Police Department to bring this man to justice,” he added. “Anyone who attacks a house of worship will get the full attention of the FBI. In addition to seeking justice for these crimes, the FBI remains committed to providing resources for potential victims, such as the event with faith leaders held in this county the day before the crime occurred.”

Other federal agents also weighed in on the conclusion of this case, including Bret Beavers of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“Arson is not only destructive and deadly, but also undermines the sense of safety within places of worship,” he said. “We immediately committed all ATF resources to addressing the impact of this arson by deploying our certified fire investigator, an ATF Task Force Officer with their ATF trained accelerant detection canine and ATF Laboratory services to analyze fire debris and evidence.”

Beavers concluded that a partnership between federal and local authorities “ensured justice once again prevailed.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kristen Clarke echoed those remarks, asserting: “No one should live in fear because of their religious beliefs. The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute those who seek to destroy houses of worship and interfere with the fundamental right to practice religion freely.”

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