Real Name: Matthews-Murkland Presbyterian Church
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee
Date: January 8, 1996
Details: Originally known as the Matthews-Murkland Presbyterian Church, the location was reopened by Green Bay Packer Reggie White in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1993. He, who is an ordained minister, renamed it the Inner City Church. It was a gathering place for both blacks and whites in the local community. On January 8, 1996, an unidentified person set it on fire with kerosene, gunpowder, and several Molotov cocktails, and it was destroyed as a result. Although certain parts of it were destroyed, others were not damaged.
The FBI and the ATF began an investigation; they found racial epithets on the walls, and they were certain that it was a hate crime. They soon learned that at least twenty-three black churches in the South had been set on fire, presumably by the same individual. Along with five others in Tennessee, the attacks have occurred in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Virginia. The most recent attack occurred on March 5, 1996.
The church did not have enough fire insurance to cover all of the damage. However, Reggie hopes that he will be able to rebuild it and bring the perpetrator to justice.
Suspects: Police believe that the arsonist is responsible for over twenty church fires in the area, and that racism may have been involved. They do not believe that the arsonist was a professional.
Three days after the fire, fliers from two White Supremacist groups (the BFI Brotherhood and Skinheads for White Justice) turned up at a bank that had ties to the church. However, there is a possibility that the fliers and graffiti were planted as decoys.
Interestingly, it was reported that the Green Bay Packers security director received a phone call three days before the fire, warning that the church would be burned down. For reasons unknown, he was not informed of the threat until it was too late.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the March 29, 1996 episode.
Results: Unsolved. According to the National Church Action Task Force, ninety-nine suspects were arrested in 150 church attacks between January 1995 and June 1997. However, no arrests were ever made in this case. It is not known if any of these suspects were investigated in it.
Sadly, Reggie died of a heart attack in 2004 without ever finding out who set fire to his church, nor was he able to rebuild it. Original suspicions was that this case was similar to other area church arsons, but investigators never found enough evidence to confirm that they were connected. The arsonist has never been identified, and this case is still open.
- Reggie White on Wikipedia
- Racism evident in church arson
- The Faith of Defensive End and Part-Time Pastor Reggie White Has Been Tested by Arsonists Who Burned His Church to the Ground
- Church donations represent thanks to Reggie
- Fire at White's church seen as isolated event
- Arson at Reggie White's Church Doesn’t Appear Related to Other Cases
- White gets check for his church
- In Church Fires, a Pattern but No Conspiracy
- St. Louis Sporting News Article (Page 1) (Page 2)
- Packer Reggie White preaches that God can raise a man to the super bowl and a church from ruins
- New Churches Rise From Ashes in Alabama, But Mystery Lingers
- Church's pastor sentenced for drugs, funds gone
- Reggie White - A Church Burning
- The Racism and Incompetence Behind the Unsolved Firebombing of an NFL Legend's Church
- 20 years unsolved: Inner City Church arson case
- Reggie White on Find a Grave