Athens Review, Athens, Texas

Local News

October 3, 2013

Reliving tragedy

Movie made about area church burnings in 2010

Athens — A film that relives the fear and frustration that swept through East Texas during the church arsons of 2010 is set for viewing later this month.

The Focus of the documentary, “Little Hope Was Arson,” focuses on a Van Zandt County church that was set ablaze on Jan. 1 of that year.

Little Hope Baptist Church ultimately held the answer to the mystery that had stumped federal, state and local law enforcement for better than a month. Faith Church in Athens was torched later that same day, followed by Lake Athens Baptist Church and Grace Community Church a few days later.

Producer and Director Theo Love found himself drawn in by the emotion-charged story of 10 houses of worship burned to the ground and the efforts to bring the unknown arsonists to justice. The result is a film that will play at the Hollywood Film Festival on Oct. 19, and gets its Texas premier at the Austin Film Festival on Oct. 25 and Oct. 29.

“Little Hope was the first church that burned, but they didn’t classify it as arson until they found graffiti in a bathroom stall,” Love said. “Someone had scratched the words, ‘Little Hope was arson.’ That was written by one of the arsonists and was a major clue in breaking the case.”

Jason Robert Bourque, 19, and Daniel George McAllister, 21, were ultimately arrested and sentenced for the crimes. It was Bourque, investigators said, who carved the words into a wall at Atwood’s Ranch and Home Store in Tyler.

“When I went out to East Texas to do research, it was amazing to me that a lot of people knew some of the facts, but nobody knew why this happened,” Love said. “The reason we went out to tell this story is because there were questions left unanswered.”

Love has made several films over the past decade, but “Little Hope” is his first feature-length project. He grew up in Southeast Asia as the son of missionaries who served in Thailand, Malaysia and Laos for more than 30 years. That upbringing also figured into his interest in the church arsons.

“We never had church buildings,” Love said. “We went to house churches. My faith was always an important part of my life, but I never had that connection with a church building.”

Love said the church burnings made him seek the answer to several questions. What had prompted the arsonists, who had church backgrounds, to set fire to the buildings? How did the church members react? 

“There are so many deep themes and messages in this horrible crime,” Love said. “I just went out there to explore. The more I learned, the more I thought this is an incredibly interesting and tragic story that would be great for a movie.”

Love found the responses of many of the church members heartbreaking.

“When I went out there and I would sit with people who had been going to those churches all of their lives,” Love said. “I found they had been baptized in that church, married in that church and watched their kids grow up in that church. They had family members buried in the cemeteries. Every single day when we were filming, someone would have tears in their eyes. I realized that these churches weren’t just buildings.”

Love, who co-produced the film with Trenton Waterson, said “Little Hope” will probably be screened in East Texas in early 2014. Anyone who would like to find out more about the project can check the website, or the Facebook page.


Text Only
Local News
  • 2726192_300x300.jpg Darin Karl found Thursday on Cedar Creek Lake

    The body of a 42-year-old man who had been missing in Cedar Creek Lake was recovered on Thursday.
    The drowning victim was identified as Darin Lynn Karl of Kemp. According to Henderson County Sheriff Ray Nutt, Karl and his nephew were fishing near Cedar Creek Country Club when the boat overturned, ejecting the men. 

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • ADR logo.tif AISD approves moving monthly meeting, additional drug testing

    Discussion on meal prices for the 2014-15 school year was pulled from Thursday's Athens Independent School District Board of Trustees agenda but other items were approved that will bring about change in the district.
    By unanimous decision, the school board approved changes to the scheduled date for its monthly meetings; additional drug testing on the high school campus and modification to the graduation policy.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-19 drugs.tif Prescription Drug Take Back Day April 26

    On Saturday, April 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Athens Police Department and Keep Athens Beautiful will host the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, giving the public its seventh opportunity in four years to prevent pill abuse and theft.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • ADR logo.tif Feud between Tool VFDs extends to city council

    The two volunteer fire departments in Tool have been dueling for 11 years. The feud between the two departments started in 2003, when the citizens of Tool voted to establish Emergency Service District No. 4. According to reports, this was about the same time the Tool Volunteer Fire Department was established.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • ADR logo.tif Would Lake Athens residents suffer if city controls water?

    Members of Lake Athens Property Owners Association have been watching the dispute between the City of Athens and the Athens Municipal Water Authority uncertain of how this will affect their future.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • ADR logo.tif Hot issue

    The two volunteer fire departments in Tool have been dueling for 11 years. The feud between the two departments started in 2003, when the citizens of Tool voted to establish Emergency Service District No. 4. According to reports, this was about the same time the Tool Volunteer Fire Department was established.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • ADR logo.tif Surplus property to be moved or demolished

    Athens Independent School District purchased property at 404 Royall Street during its March school board meeting with the intent to square off property previously purchased by the district.
    During Thursday's school board meeting, a unanimous decision was made to designate the property as surplus and advertise the home to be moved or demolished.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • DSC_0077.JPG Taste of Home Cooking School

    The Taste of Home Cooking School was held Thursday at the Cain Center. Hundreds attended the events that was sponsored by Cole A/C and the Athens Daily Review.

    April 19, 2014 6 Photos

  • ADR logo.tif City, AMWA differ on future management of water supply

    The 57-year relationship between the Athens Municipal Water Authority and the City of Athens grew stormy in 2013 because of a disagreement over who should pay certain bills.
    The difference-of-opinion led to the Authority filing suit against the city last December, and the city responding by setting the wheels in motion that slated a May 10 election to decide whether to abolish AMWA.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-18 Easter.jpg Excited and ready

    Lexie and Isabella Hawkins are excited and ready for the Kiwanis Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday, April 19 at 9 a.m. in Kiwanis Park.  Bicycles, rabbits and lots of Easter Eggs will be waiting for you. Everyone is welcome, and of course the Easter Bunny will be there.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo