Trial set for alleged church arsonists

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Two men from High Prairie charged in connection with a fire that damaged an historic Catholic Church in Grouard on May 22 will go to trial one year after the incident occurred.

A trial for Gerald Kenneth Capot, 50, and Kenneth Randy Ferguson, 56 was set beginning May 21, 2024 in the Court of King’s Bench in Peace River, according to Alberta Justice Court Checks. The two men were charged with arson of property of others, and break-and-enter to commit theft after fire heavily damaged the St. Bernard Mission Church May 22.

The building contained many historical and unique items, including paintings by the first missionary bishop of the region, Bishop Emile Grouard.The church building was completed in 1902.

Matters for both men were set over to Sept. 1 in the Court of King’s Bench for arraignment.

Lawyer Derek Renzini spoke as an agent for Ferguson’s lawyer, Dallas Gelineau, in High Prairie Court of Justice July 31. He elected to be tried by a justice alone in Court of King’s Bench without a preliminary inquiry and set the matter to Sept. 1 in Peace River.

Arraignment is an appearance to give opportunity to enter a plea or set a date for trial.

An RCMP news release said police responded to a report of a fire at the 121-year-old building around 3:30 p.m.

“Preliminary investigation indicates it is suspicious in nature,” said Const. Julie-Ann Strilaiff, Media Relations Officer, Peace Regional RCMP.

Capot and Ferguson were charged May 23.

Big Lakes County Fires Services responded to the call with crews from Grouard, Enilda and Joussard. High Prairie Fire Department also responded.

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