Man denies arson charge in Vt church fire

October 23, 2013, 7:25 am

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont man has pleaded not guilty to a charge of setting fire to an historic church near downtown Burlington.

Police were called at 5:34 a.m. Wednesday after the custodian at the College Street Congregational Church found a door open and heard someone in the steeple.

Thirty-two-year-old Alaiksandr Bychkou (alek-SAND'-er BEECH'-koo) of Burlington was found inside and was initially taken into custody on a charge of unlawful trespass. Shortly afterward, the bell tower erupted in flames.

Bychkou was arraigned Wednesday afternoon.

Fire Chief Seth Lasker says the fire was largely contained to the church steeple and the building is not a total loss. The Burlington Free Press reports ( ) that a church official says engineers have determined that the steeple must be removed.

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