Bourque Speaks: McAllister Was Full Participant
KYTX CBS 19 VIDEO
By KENNETH DEAN
A dream state -- mixed with doses of a clouded reality -- is how Jason Robert Bourque described his state of mind during the two months he and Daniel George McAllister torched 10 East Texas churches in early 2010.
"At first I wasn't sure if any of it had happened or if it was all a dream," Bourque said during a 35-minute phone interview Sunday with the Tyler Morning Telegraph and KYTX CBS19.
However, Bourque, who said he had been getting high on marijuana and taking prescribed medications including Chantix and Prozac, would learn the dreams were in fact a reality that eventually would cost him his freedom.
"When I began searching websites about the end of January and early February, I was terrified and scared. I was trying to figure out how to stop it from happening."
"When the agents came to my house, it really didn't dawn on me that they were investigating me."
Bourque and McAllister each have been sentenced to multiple counts of arson and have been given 10 and five life sentences, respectively. Bourque also was given an additional 20-year sentence for an attempted arson, meaning he must serve 20 years before being eligible for parole. McAllister must serve 15 before he is eligible for release.
Bourque, who is being housed in the Smith County Jail, called his grandparents' home in Lindale on Sunday and agreed to speak with the television station and newspaper to "straighten out some facts" in the case.
Bourque said he was upset that his former friend McAllister had told several untruths in the case to make himself look better to authorities.
Bourque said McAllister was upset with God about his mother's death, which touched off a litany of family problems for the McAllister family, including drug use by McAllister -- years before Bourque himself became involved with narcotics.
Bourque's grandmother, Brenda Steele, and his mother, Kimberly Bourque, said they had reached out to help McAllister when he was a young teenager but that he wanted no part of the church and did what he wanted to do.
"He is certainly no follower like the authorities have said. He was an introvert, but he did what he wanted when he wanted to do it," Mrs. Steele said.
Bourque's mother added, "Daniel sure didn't go along to burn churches for a bag of weed."
The two women said they put money on McAllister's commissary note at the Smith County Jail for months to help him out, and they were astounded when he attempted to shift the blame to Jason.
Bourque indicated he felt betrayed by a friend whom he and his family had helped.
Bourque said that sometime in late 2009, McAllister had begun talking more about religious things, including how he had dabbled in Satanism and had even taken part in live animal sacrifices.
"Months before the fires began, Daniel had said some things about churches, and I believe his exact words were, 'We should burn them all down,'" he said.
Bourque said on the night of Jan. 1, 2010, he found himself driving alone in his Ford Focus down a Van Zandt County back road when he saw the church.
"I was driving and found myself there. I remember bits and pieces, but it's not real coherent. I do remember that I didn't stack any Bibles or anything. I used the Christmas tree in the church to start the fire. I only remember because it was a Christmas tree," he said.
Bourque believes the suggestions from McAllister and all the medications he was taking resulted in him starting the fire.
"I was doing all of this robotically with no forethought,' he said. "I was doing all kinds of weird stuff at this time like walking five miles to Walmart in the middle of the night and back home again for no real reason. I also broke into a home and, when the alarm went off, I ran. I followed along with any suggestions on impulse."
University of Texas At Tyler Professor of Psychology Gary Mears examined Bourque while he was incarcerated and said he seemed to be a depressed individual who had been prescribed Chantix, a drug known to cause confusion and hallucinations.
Bourque torched the Faith Church in Athens the same night as Little Hope but said he could not remember any details about the fire.
McAllister would be with him for the next two fires in Athens, and Bourque said, "Daniel was as active in the fires as I was."
In all, 10 churches spanning three counties and the cities of Tyler, Lindale, Wills Point, Canton and Athens would be burned during the two men's arson spree. But Bourque said there was no system to how the churches were picked or where the fires were set.
"It was totally random. I don't remember setting up pews and Bibles and stuff in any specific way. It sounds like to me that Daniel had the method, because he explained it in his video," he said, referring to McAllister's taped interviews with former Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent Larry Smith and Texas Ranger Brent Davis.
McAllister has told authorities he broke into the churches with Bourque but that it was Bourque who started the fires.
Bourque said the ATF investigators were not right about how all of the fires were started, and he said the agency made the fires fit a certain pattern.
The agency has said Bibles, hymnals, pews, cushions and anything flammable were stacked with air pockets between them to allow the fire to grow. The agency also pointed toward Bourque being an Eagle Scout with the knowledge of fire setting.
"They said the Little Hope fire had stuff stacked up, and I said I used the Christmas tree to start the fire," he said.
When asked where he learned to use the hand sanitizer to start the fires, he replied, "It's common sense that it contains alcohol, and alcohol burns. I don't think there was ever any discussion on what to use to start the fires, and we used paint at one fire."
Bourque addressed the writings on his computer as being written by someone experimenting with various narcotics including a variety of cold medicines containing Dextrome-thorphan Hydrobromide, which has been proven by the FDA to have hallucinogenic side effects.
"I did a lot of research on a lot of things," he said.
Bourque admitted to being responsible for 10 fires, and he asked for forgiveness.
However, he and his family believe the 10 life sentences were excessive.
"I have seen child molesters and murders get less time than this. I think I should have gotten 10 years' adjudicated probation," he said.
Bourque said he plans to use his time incarcerated learning and helping to educate others and possibly authoring a book.
"I have been holding Bible studies in my cell, and I have been reading the Bible to one cellmate who cannot read. I have also been writing letters for him to his family," he said.
"I am not going to let these circumstances get me down, but I plan on doing something while in here."
Bourque's family said that, in addition to the Bible, he has read 125 spiritual books since being incarcerated, and they said they have seen a change from the depressed man they had seen before his arrest.
"He's back to being Jason now. He is great except for the fact he is in jail," Ms. Bourque said.
Bourque said he apologizes to the church congregations and said he had not spoken earlier because his attorney Greg Waldron had told him to keep quiet.
His family said the first time they heard Bourque talk about the fires was during the phone conversation Sunday night, because Waldron had advised them to talk only about the family during their jail visits during the past year.
"Jason has wanted to talk about all of this for a long time. He spent 10 months in a side cell, talking to no one because the attorney didn't want him to say anything about the case. But it's over now, so he can talk," Mrs. Steele said.
Bourque said he hoped the community could forgive him.
"I am sorry about all of this and wished it never had happened. I'm very remorseful about it and have thought about it for a year. I hope they can forgive me," he said before his allotted time on the phone expired.