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Man charged with arson after Fairfield County church damaged by fire

The sheriff's office said the fire happened Saturday night at Mount Zion Church. Authorities found the suspect nearly two hours after responding to the scene.

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Ohio — A Pickerington man is facing charges in connection with a fire that happened Saturday night at a church in Fairfield County.

The Fairfield County Sheriff's Office received a call around 11 p.m. about a fire at Mount Zion Church, located at 4810 Blacklick Eastern Road in Baltimore.

The sheriff's office said a caller, who lives near the church, saw the fire and a man fleeing from the area.

Deputies who responded searched the area for the suspect while firefighters put out the flames.

Around 12:45 a.m. Sunday, deputies found the suspect, later identified as 24-year-old Benjamin Ruckel, in a nearby ditch. He was arrested and taken to the Fairfield County Jail.

Credit: 10TV

Ruckel has been charged with felony counts of arson and desecration and was given a $250,000 bound. He is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday.

The church was built in 1863 and the fire destroyed original pews and damaged the Bibles and other books in the sanctuary.

The fire started in the church's worship area and the congregation met Sunday for service in the building's fellowship area.

Investigators say Ruckel used an open flame, likely a lighter, to set the church on fire. 

The Fairfield County Sheriff's Office Investigations Bureau and the state fire marshal are investigating the incident.

Credit: Cynthia Faccenda

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