Mar 8, 2006

"A Joke That Went Too Far" - College Kids And Church Fires


Left: Accused arsonist Matthew Lee Cloyd, courtesy of CNN

(Toledo, OH) Authorities arrested three Alabama college students on Wednesday on charges of setting fires that damaged or destroyed nine Baptist churches in the state, in what one suspect allegedly called "a joke that went too far."

Prosecutors identified the suspects as Ben Moseley and Russell Debusk, 19-year-old students at Birmingham-Southern College, and Matthew Lee Cloyd, 20, who transferred in 2005 from BSC to the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

There is plenty of information available on the case, but what I found intriguing was the amount of information available about these young men from existing Internet sources.

Birmingham-Southern College has already pulled the public profiles of these students, but they can still be obtained through the Internet Wayback Machine.

Russ DeBusk is a theatre major from Hoover, and he worked on part of the set for "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." There is also a picture of Debusk's father at his workplace.

Matthew Cloyd was a student volunteer at the 2005 Latin American Studies Symposium at Birmingham-Southern College. He was also a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity, although the group has since removed his name.

Ben Moseley played "Raul" BSC's production of William Mastrosimone’s "Extremities." The school proudly lists him as a 2004 Legacy Class member the son of Stephen Moseley, a 1982 graduate of the college.

Moseley left the following message at the web site of actor friend Jeremy Roberts:
Hey buddy! I meant to call while you were in town. Your sister left me your number, but I forgot to call. I hope to see you in the summer, when you visit. Don't forget, I'm still working on my acting, and I'll be onscreen soon. We need to talk. See you, man. You're the best!
Ben Moseley
And remember: this was just a joke that went too far, man. It's all good, right?

Addendum: CBS News has .pdf files of the official BATF complaint.


Anonymous said...

Sick bastards.

historymike said...

That's a succinct comment, and it nails how most people feel.

Just so long as "sick" is not translated into "crazy."

Anonymous said...

How in hell could these kids think this was a "joke?"

Calico Jack said...

Criminal mischief taken to the nth degree. One church I could kind of understand as an act of vandalism that got away from the perpetrators, but ten churches? I gather the three are being charged with nine, the tenth being an unrelated case of arson. At least, so far.

I think these three were working their way up to something a little bigger. One shot, one kill, maybe. I’m glad they got stopped when they did. I’ll give you three to one that one of the trio is a genuine sociopath, and the other two are just criminals in the making. Of course, I may be all wrong here.

historymike said...

I am still shaking my head that these young men could engage in this behavior.

And repeatedly.

This is much more than a "college prank" gone too far. These people engaged in a pattern of willful criminal behavior to destroy the churches of people they didn't even know.

There is also something about the "child of privilege" spin on this case that sickens me.

You know, "good boys gone bad."

I posted the info about the young men, and followed up with a jarring, whiny retort, because I wanted to snap people out of that sympathy.

Would there be the same spin if these were young black men from a poor urban area? My guess - the media would paint them much differently.

Calico Jack said...

If these were young, black men from a poor urban area, they wouldn't be burning down churches. Even if they were black gang members from Floyd Street, they wouldn't be running around burning down churches.

I resent the upper class spin on this as well. It makes me think that all the MSM coverage is building up to leniency.

If all the church buildings were predominantly black, this crime would be racially motivated. I’m tending to theorize that these three criminals don’t discriminate; They hate everyone equally.

Stephanie said...

This is just disgusting... Hopefully justice is served and none of this is "swept under the rug." After all, the rugs burned too.

Dariush said...

Before anyone readies the gallows, let's remember that these are kids.

I'm not saying they should get off, scot free.

But let's just keep things in perspective when deciding on the appropriate punishment.

Hooda Thunkit said...

I believe I addressed this on ToledoTalk rather harshly.

I'd like to modify my comment here.'

I say castration by Pocket Blow Torch, not a full sized one.

That will take longer and will remove these "kids" from an already murky gene pool.

Stephanie said...

Since when are 19 & 20 year olds considered kids?

Hooda Thunkit said...

"Since when are 19 & 20 year olds considered kids?"

Since their actions and attitude make them kids?

Dariush said...

College age kids are still kids.

Many of them "act out" way more than they did in high school, since they're operating under less restrictions than they did had at home and HS and have far more personal freedom.


18's just a number. Not some magical dividing line between childhood and adulthood. Or between maturity and immaturity, wisdom and stupidity, or what have you.

Stephanie said...


"Not some magical dividing line between childhood and adulthood."

No, it's not a magical dividing line. It's a legal dividing line. These "kids" broke the law and did a lot of damage in so doing. As college students, they are completely capable of understanding the consequences of their actions. Just because they do not choose to do so doesn't mean their punishment should be at all lenient. Burning down other peoples' property is not an acceptable joke or prank, or what have you. Nor is this the act of a typical child. Their age garners them no sympathy from me. Being young doesn't justify being selfish and destructive.

Stephanie said...


"Since their actions and attitude make them kids?"

Their actions and attitudes make them delinquents. Kids and delinquents are NOT synonymous.