Suspect arrested in devastating Cannon Co. church fire - WSMV News 4

Suspect arrested in devastating Cannon Co. church fire

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Ezra Marino (Photo from Cannon Co. Sheriff's Office) Ezra Marino (Photo from Cannon Co. Sheriff's Office)

Investigators have arrested a man suspected in a fire that burned down a decades-old Cannon County church.

Ezra Marino is charged with arson to a place of worship, according to the Cannon County Sheriff's Office, after the Ivy Bluff United Methodist Church was destroyed by fire early Monday.

Officials have not released any other information on the investigation.

Congregation picks up the pieces

A lifetime of memories went up in smoke this week when a Cannon County church burned to the ground.

Smoldering ruins are all that are left of the Ivy Bluff United Methodist Church, and people traveled from all across the Midstate on Tuesday to mourn the loss of a treasure that was much more than just a building.

Families have marked milestones at the church for more than half a century, but now those days are just a memory.

"To see it on fire was quite a devastating view," said the Rev. Danny Freeman.

Someone passing by the rural church spotted the fire around 2 a.m. Monday. Pastor Freeman and several families had just left the church around 8 p.m. Sunday after a worship service.

For many in the community, the church was not only a landmark, but it was also part of their family roots. When it was built in 1948, many in the congregation actually did all of the woodwork inside the church.

"You'd walk in, and the first thing you'd say is, 'wow.' It had beautiful, ornate woodwork. Everything was handmade," Freeman said.

And the building provided a familiar link from one generation to another and one family to another.

"I heard one lady say, 'I was married here, my grandmother was married here, my mother was married here and my daughter was married here,'" Freeman said.

Fire investigators were on the scene Tuesday, trying to give the congregation some answers as to how and why this might have happened.

"I did speak with the state fire marshal, and he said due to the total destruction we may never find out," Freeman said.

In the meantime, nine area churches have already offered to help the congregation pick up the pieces.

The Ivy Bluff United Methodist Church will continue its worship services for now at the Woodland Elementary School.

Freeman said he also plans on meeting with the congregation for ideas for a new building.

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