VAN ZANDT COUNTY, TX (KLTV) – On Friday, Daniel McAllister apologized and asked East Texas to forgive him and his friend, Jason Bourque for setting church fires across three counties.
The saga ended this afternoon, inside the 294th District Court in Canton, just a few short miles away from where the very first church, Little Hope Baptist, burned to the ground.
Within minutes of stepping out of court, Daniel McAllister stepped in front of the cameras. KLTV was the first to ask him "Why?"
"We were on drugs… clouded our judgement," McAllister expressed.
McAllister says prescription and over-the-counter pills and marijuana fueled his and Bourque's tri-county arson spree.
He says that's how his buddy convinced him to go along with everything—with a bag of weed.
"At first, I thought he was joking with me, just trying to get a reaction," said McAllister.
"Watched the news for the last two that were burned down… I had a feeling it was going to happen soon," he said.
McAllister says he was high when he got arrested nearly a year ago.
On Friday, McAllister spoke with his attorney present, "He admitted his guilt and assisted law enforcement to the best of his ability. Someone in his position, that's all they can do to show remorse," said attorney Brent Ratekin.
Daniel pled guilty and got life in prison for helping Jason Bourque burn down Russell Memorial United Methodist Church.
But Bourque acted alone at Little Hope Baptist Church, where Bill Parr is the Pastor, "This is the number one."
The Little Hope fire was originally thought to be an electrical fire. Then, investigators discovered hymnals and bibles had been stacked around the piano and set on fire—much like the other fires.
Then a major break in the case, Bourque was caught on surveillance video at the Atwood's store in Tyler nearly a year ago, walking into the men's room
That same day, a customer reported seeing "Little Hope was arson," carved into one of the stalls.
"We have no right not to forgive, we gladly forgive, we've moved on, we've rebuilt," said Pastor Parr.
McAllister tells KLTV he grew up Christian, and still is one. He says he's grown stronger in his faith since the arrest.
"God can change anyone if you ask him," McAllister said.
McAllister had this message for the rest of East Texas, "Sorry everyone was put through this, luckily, no one was hurt, and I hope everyone can forgive me and Mr. Bourque."
Bourque made no comments on Friday.
Friday's sentences made a combined 14 life sentences for both men, plus a combined 100 years in prison.
As part of plea agreements in Smith, Henderson, and Van Zandt Counties, both men's sentences will be served concurrently.