Man who burned Brewster church is ‘mentally ill,’ family says; blaze not connected to other recent Cape Cod fires

The Brewster man arrested on charges he burned a Cape Cod church to the ground Friday is “mentally ill,” his family said in a statement today.

Adam Finnegan, 29, is set to be arraigned Monday in connection with a three-alarm fire that consumed the Cape Cod Bible Alliance Church on Main Street in Brewster early Friday morning that authorities said was an isolated incident.

State fire officials said in a statement Friday night that the blaze is not connected to two other fires on Cape Cod earlier this week. A fire in Falmouth Wednesday that destroyed a garden center garage is still being investigated, while a Sunday blaze in an abandoned Harwich motel was determined to be arson.

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State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan said Friday that the Brewster blaze also had no connection to a recent spate of arson fires south of Boston.

In a statement released this afternoon, Finnegan’s parents said their “thoughts and prayers go out to the congregation” of the destroyed church.

“To have their church burned down, especially during this holiday season, is heartbreaking,” the statement read. “We were as shocked as the community to learn our son may have done this.”

According to his family, Finnegan has been “in and out of psychiatric inpatient care,” and had been living with his parents in Brewster before his arrest Friday.

They expressed disappointment with “the mental health system” for failing Finnegan.

“...time and time again through the years as we have looked to mental health professionals and authorities for help we are told there is nothing further they can do,” his parents said in the statement. “It saddens us greatly that the mental health system in this country is so broken.”

The church’s youth pastor, the Rev. Derek Mansker, said that while Finnegan was not known to the congregation, he expected the church to reach out to Finnegan’s family and offer forgiveness.

“We want his family to know that we care for them and we’re not holding this against them at all,” Mansker said. “We don’t want to have any ill will towards him, and we want them to know that.... we do love them as people.”

Officials were tight-lipped today about details of the arrest, including where Finnegan was arrested and what information led police to suspect him. He is currently incarcerated at the Barnstable County Correctional Facility, Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe said.

O’Keefe said it would be “inappropriate” to reveal more information before Monday’s hearing, citing an ongoing investigation.

He praised law enforcement officials for locating Finnegan quickly.

“The police did a very good job, along with the fire marshal’s office, in finding him quickly so the community can rest a little easier,” O’Keefe said.

Brewster Deputy Fire Chief William Harrison said that police “already had a suspect” even as firefighters continued to battle the blaze early Friday, but gave no further details on what led police to Finnegan.

Church leaders scrambled to reschedule a funeral service that had been scheduled to be held in the church today, moving it to a church in nearby South Dennis.

Sunday’s services will be held at Stony Brook Elementary School in Brewster, the church said.

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