ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – A 19-year-old Maplewood man is accused of setting fire to a St. Paul church last November while his ex-girlfriend was inside the building, according to charges filed Friday by the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office.
Tou Chai Lee has been charged with two felony counts of first-degree arson and one count of aggravated stalking in connection with the incident. Lee will make his first court appearance Friday afternoon.
According to a criminal complaint, a youth group was attending a meeting on the night of Nov. 12, 2010, at Faith Alliance Church in St. Paul when a fire started in the church’s entryway. The group had to use alternative exits to get out of the church safely because smoke and flames prevented them from leaving through the church’s main entrance.
Witnesses at the scene said an ex-boyfriend of one of the group’s members was in the area at the time of the fire. Witnesses said the girl had broken up with Lee a few months before the incident and had filed a restraining order against him for unwanted telephone, email, texting and other communication he continued to have with the girl, the complaint states.
The group confronted Lee that being at the church was a violation of that restraining order, and he claimed he was there to warn them about a note he got that said someone was going to burn the church down.
The complaint also refers to a pattern of erratic behavior that includes criminal damage to property, slashed tires, emails and burglaries between Lee and the woman.