19-year-old charged for Congregation Beth Israel fire in Austin, Texas

A federal grand jury in Austin has returned a three-count indictment charging Franklin Barrett Sechriest, 19, of San Marcos with crimes for the intentional fire set at a synagogue in Austin on October 31, 2021.


Franklin Barrett Sechriest was reportedly seen on video carrying a five-gallon container and toilet paper toward Congregation Beth Israel in Austin before the fire. (Austin Fire Department)

Sechriest was reportedly seen on surveillance video carrying a five-gallon container and toilet paper toward the synagogue’s sanctuary. Moments later, multiple surveillance videos captured the distinct glow of a fire that appeared to come from the sanctuary.  

A security camera captured Sechriest jogging away from the direction of the sanctuary and fire towards the open driver’s side door of a vehicle, according to court documents.

During the course of their investigation, FBI agents identified Sechriest as a possible suspect and searched his residence. 

During the search, agents found items similar to those seen on the surveillance videos, including similar clothing and a receipt for a five-gallon container similar to the one seen on video. Agents also reportedly found various handwritten journals that contained statements related to the synagogue fire.

Sechriest has remained in federal custody since his arrest on November 12, 2021.

The indictment charges Sechriest with one count of Damage to Religious Property; one count of Use of Fire to Commit a Federal Crime; and one count of Arson. 

Sechriest faces a maximum 30 years in prison for the Damage to Religious Property count; a mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison to run consecutive to any other sentence on the Use of Fire count; and a maximum 20 years in prison for the Arson count.

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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