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Church Firebomber Sentenced to State Prison

March 11, 2016


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Robert James, 215.348.6332, rdjames@buckscounty.org

A Falls Township man who firebombed a church during a vandalism spree last spring was sentenced this morning to serve three to six years in state prison.

John P. Serina Jr., 34, whose other crimes included slashing the tires of 18 vehicles, and defacing a public park, a community pool and a school in his neighborhood, was also sentenced to a consecutive six years of probation by Bucks County Judge Rea B. Boylan.

In addition, Boylan ordered Serina to pay $77,768.63 in restitution, and to have no contact with any of his victims, most of whom are his neighbors.

Serina had pleaded guilty in January to crimes including arson, institutional vandalism and criminal mischief. He blamed his actions on substance abuse. At the time, he had been on parole from state prison for a kidnapping committed in 2008.

Firefighters encountered three fires when they were summoned to the Restoration Church, 401 Pinewood Drive, before dawn on April 19. A cross was ablaze in the yard in front of the church, playground equipment and mulch were burning to the side, and a bathroom in the basement of the church was on fire.

A half-empty soda bottle containing gasoline was found near the cross. A Molotov cocktail fashioned from a beer bottle filled with gas had been thrown through a window into a church bathroom.

Serina was among the first neighbors encountered by the fire marshal, who described him as “excited and agitated” by the vandalism done to the church. Serina volunteered that he had just returned home from walking his dog when he smelled smoke coming from the church.

Nearly two months later, on June 11, Serina’s SUV was stopped by police after he fired a BB gun several times from the moving vehicle. While being questioned, Serina confessed that he had set the cross and playground fires at Restoration Church, and that he had thrown a gas-filled bottle into the church bathroom.

Serina also confessed to several episodes of vandalism since the church fires, all of which had happened not far from his home.

On May 17, the tires of 18 vehicles were punctured outside 14 homes in Serina’s neighborhood. Serina told police he had damaged the tires while walking his dog.

On May 21, police reported that two signs, a slide, a park bench and a chain-link fence had been defaced with spray paint at the Pinewood Community pool near Serina’s home. The same day, school staff at Walt Disney Elementary School, which is near Serina’s neighborhood, found the outside wall of the school library and the playground area had been spray-painted with graffiti.

School workers discovered three spray paint cans on the roof of the school. Two of the three cans were found to have been purchased at a nearby Walmart store. Police obtained store surveillance video showing a man resembling Serina purchasing the cans of paint and leaving the parking lot in a white SUV.

On June 9, Walt Disney Elementary was vandalized again, this time with graffiti on windows, doors and a lamp pole. Spray paint and a permanent marker had been used.

The next day, June 10, a police officer was checking for more surveillance video at the nearby Walmart when he spotted Serina pulling into the parking lot in the same white SUV. A check of the license tag showed that the vehicle was owned by Serina.  Later that day, police received a report that an air compressor and a garage door at Pinewood Community Pool had been spray-painted with graffiti.

A day later, on June 11, came the BB gun incident that led to Serina’s arrest and confession. He has been held since then in the Bucks County Correctional Facility.

Approved for release by Michele Kelly Walsh, Deputy District Attorney.

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