Three men questioned in arson fires at two black churches were released for lack of evidence, and a bank offered $500,000 in rewards for information on the rash of church blazes in the South.
The weekend fires at New Light House of Prayer and the Church of the Living God were the latest of 32 fires to hit black churches since January 1995. Only five cases have been closed with arrests.Police Chief Barry Paris insisted Tuesday's release of the two white men and a Hispanic man was not an end to the cases.
"The investigation is not going away," he said. "We will go however long it takes to bring this case to closure."
Two other fires also were being investigated in Greenville this week. On Monday, fire destroyed a vacant, one-story frame house a few blocks from the New Light church, and Tuesday, another blaze broke out in an abandoned, three-story building downtown.
Meanwhile, Charlotte, N.C.-based NationsBank offered $500,000 in reward money for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the fires. The reward is in the form of $50,000 for each of 10 incidents.
NationsBank, the nation's fourth-largest, operates in nine Southern states.
Also, South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon announced that attorneys general in Southern states plan to form a multistate task force to investigate the church blazes.
He said the group's first action will be to call a summit meeting, probably in Virginia, with religious leaders and law enforcement officials.