AUSTIN (KXAN) — A San Marcos man accused of lighting an Austin synagogue on fire last Halloween was indicted on federal charges Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
In a press release, the DOJ said Franklin Barrett Sechriest, 19, was indicted on three charges after a federal grand jury returned its decision. Sechriest is charged with arson, damage to religious property and use of fire to commit a federal crime, the DOJ said.
Sechriest is accused of setting Congregation Beth Israel on fire Oct. 31, 2021, damaging the synagogue’s sanctuary and causing extensive damage. Since then, synagogue officials said they’ve raised around $500,000 to repair the damage and make other improvements.
If convicted, the DOJ said Sechrist could face up to 30 years in prison for the damage to religious property charge, 20 years for arson and a mandatory 10-year sentence to run concurrently with any other sentence for the use of fire charge.
Sechriest has been in federal custody since he was arrested in connection with the fire on November 12, the DOJ said.
According to an arrest affidavit from the FBI, agents who searched Sechriest’s home found a credit card in his name and the statement showing he bought a 5-gallon gas on Sept. 6. He was seen on surveillance footage with a gas can in his hand, the affidavit said. Agents also found glass bottles, lighter fluid, a lighter and waterproof matches in his car.
Agents also found a journal in Sechriest’s home that had notes related to the arson, the affidavit said. One of the entries, dated Oct. 31, said, “I set a synagogue on fire,” according to the affidavit.
The FBI and Austin Fire Department are still investigating the case.