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SPRINGVILLE -- Four years after the crime, an arrest has been made in the 2006 arson of an LDS church building thanks to DNA evidence found at the scene.
The Utah County Attorney's office, along with officers of the Springville Police Department, announced Monday that they had arrested Jake Dowhaniuk, 24, for the arson.
Police say Dowhaniuk, a former Springville resident, was easy to find because he was already in prison. He has spent the past three years there, serving time for several burglary convictions.
DNA evidence he submitted when he was sent to prison ultimately tied him the arson and allowed Springville police to solve the 4-year-old case.
According to officers, the break came in the case because of evidence recovered at the scene. Officers indicated that when the suspect broke into the church he apparently cut himself. They were able to collect enough evidence to obtain a DNA sample and have been waiting for a match ever since.
Lt. Dave Caron with the Springville Police Department said, "We had a lot of calls and a lot of suspicions and we followed every lead we possibly could, all the while holding out a lot of hope that the DNA evidence would turn up something."
That match was made a few weeks ago by the State Crime Lab, and the information was forwarded to the Utah County attorney's office.
"When you get some samples in the laboratory, you never know if that's going to solve that old case you've been working for years," said state crime lab director Jay Henry.
Utah law requires anyone convicted of a serious crime to give a DNA sample. The state now has a database with 50,000 offender profiles. A computer works to match those known samples with DNA from crime scenes.
"We have had hits within Utah to our offenders," Henry said. "We've had hits with our offenders to other crimes around the country."
While the technology has improved in the past decade, DNA is a process that is expensive and limited funding can delay samples getting into the database by several months. But DNA provides police with solid answers, especially in cold cases.
"It's one of the few tools that law enforcement can use to deduce concrete, absolute facts about a crime," Henry said. "It doesn't lie. The facts are the facts."
Those facts are giving residents some closure about the loss of a community landmark.
"Obviously we would rather have our building back, but it's good to have someone responsible for the arson charged in this case," Caron said.
The church at 451 South Main Street in Springville was an historic landmark. It was built in 1913 and remodeled in 1998, but its unique architecture was preserved. Officers first estimated the damages to be in excess of $200,000. Though firefighters extinguished the blaze, the building still had to be torn down because it was no longer structurally sound.
The investigation into the fire showed that a suspect or suspects had broken into the church and had committed a great deal of vandalism throughout the building. Doors were damaged and photographs were ripped from the walls and thrown onto the floors. The suspects then set the fire under the stage in the cultural hall. It appeared the suspects attempted or readied other places to set fire to the building.
Dowhaniuk faces a new felony charge of arson. He will be brought from the prison to hear the charges in court on Jan. 6.
His motive for starting the fire remains unknown.
Story compiled with contributions from Sam Penrod and the DMC News Division.