Woman Who Set Fire To Montgomery Church Gets 8 Years In Prison

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A 30-year-old woman in the U.S. on a student visa has been sentenced to more than eight years in prison for setting fire to First Baptist Church in Montgomery in 2021, federal prosecutors said Monday.

Xiaoqin Yan, a citizen of China, was convicted last year on charges of arson and illegal possession of a firearm. At the time of her arrest, Yan had overstayed her non-immigrant visa and, therefore, could not lawfully possess a firearm. Her visa was revoked after her arrest.

Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan S. Ross of Alabama's Middle District said in a news release that Yan was sentenced to 102 months in prison on Friday. The statement didn’t specify how long Yan had overstayed her visa.

According to court records and evidence presented at Yan’s June 2023 trial, Yan entered a church in downtown Montgomery on Sept. 30, 2021 and ignited multiple fires inside the building. The church sustained at least $25,000 in damage, al.com reported.

Yan was captured on surveillance video. Investigators also found items identical to those seen in the video, as well as clothing the type worn by Yan when setting the fires.

Evidence presented during the trial also showed that Yan had multiple encounters with church staff prior to the arson and had exhibited odd behavior.