‘I Set A Synagogue On Fire’: Texas Arson Suspect Wrote About Crime In Diary, Feds Say

Franklin Barrett Sechriest
U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas
Start your day with TPM.
Sign up for the Morning Memo newsletter

A Texas man faces a federal charge for allegedly intentionally setting fire to an Austin synagogue on Halloween. He allegedly wrote down details of the attack in his diary. 

“Scout out a target,” Franklin Barrett Sechriest, 18, allegedly wrote in a journal on Oct. 28. And three days later: “I set a synagogue on fire.” 

Other entries include “piss myself,” and “pay cash for [redacted],” according to photos of the journal included in an FBI agent’s affidavit supporting a federal arson charge against Sechriest, who’s also a private in the Texas National Guard and student at Texas State University.

In a planning calendar recovered by authorities, Sechriest marked Aug. 19 “N*****-appreciation class,” according to the affidavit.

The handwriting in the journals was confirmed by someone in Sechriest’s residence as belonging to him, the affidavit noted.

It didn’t take long for authorities to catch up with the alleged synagogue arsonist.

The affidavit offered a play-by-play of surveillance video: Footage allegedly showed the defendant pulling up to the synagogue, carrying a jug and a roll of toilet paper to an entrance, and then walking away from the building as a fire begins to burn. The Jeep Cherokee spotted on the surveillance footage is registered to someone believed to be a relative of Sechriest’s who lives at the same residence, according to the affidavit. 

Law enforcement executed search warrants on the Jeep, Sechriest’s residence and Sechriest himself last week. Among other things, they turned up lighter fluid and matches, as well as stickers with anti-Semitic propaganda on them.

U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas

Sechriest was arrested Wednesday on state charges, after investigators allegedly identified his car from surveillance footage, and has been in federal custody since Friday. No one was hurt in the synagogue fire, but the damage to the building is in excess of $25,000, according to the federal affidavit.

Sechriest had an initial appearance in federal court on Monday and is scheduled for a preliminary examination and detention hearing on Wednesday, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas.

In an entry on Nov. 2 noted in the federal affidavit, Sechriest appears to have acknowledged the ongoing search for the arson perpetrator. 

“Check reports on [REDACTED],” the entry reads in scribbled handwriting. “Get worried when it mentions they are ‘hopeful a suspect will be caught based on redacted.” 

Latest News
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: