Church Arson Suspect Pleads Not Guilty

  • Steeplejacks work to remove the burned steeple of the First Baptist Church in Lebanon, N.H., Saturday morning, December 31, 2016. The church was lost in an overnight fire on Wednesday. (Valley News - John Happel) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • Anthony Boisvert listens to a judge read his charges aloud via video feed during his arraignment hearing in Lebanon District Court, Tuesday, January 3, 2017 in Lebanon, N.H. Boisvert faces seven felony charges in connection with two stabbings on Sunday and the fire the destroyed the First Baptist Church of Lebanon last week. (Valley News - John Happel) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/29/2017 12:33:48 AM
Modified: 4/29/2017 12:39:10 AM

Lebanon — First Baptist Church officials are taking steps to rebuild following a devastating fire in December that gutted their 19th-century building and left them without a permanent meeting space.

The congregation plans to meet today to hold a building design workshop, said Keith Davio, the church’s moderator and chairman of the executive board.

“This is where we will brainstorm several different floor plan options, so our architect can understand our desires and intents,” Davio said. “With that as input, our building committee and the architect can work to prepare an overall floor plan.”

The Dec. 28 fire, which police said was deliberately set by a Lebanon man, heavily damaged the Gothic Revival church building, which was built on School Street in 1870, just south of Colburn Park.

Once a concept for a new interior is vetted, the committee and the architect will zero in on the exterior. Details such as the architectural style of the building haven’t yet been decided, he said.

He expects the design and permitting phase to take some time. If all goes as planned, church officials hope to break ground at the end of the summer.

The church’s insurance filings aren’t yet completed, so officials don’t yet know how much money they will receive in a settlement.

“Once we get a final number from the insurance, we will marry that up with the preferred design and then assess what fundraising opportunities we will need to pursue,” Davio said.

Meanwhile, the accused church arsonist has been indicted on two additional felony charges alleging he burglarized the Carter Community Building Association and the Upper Valley Senior Center on the night of the church fire.

Anthony Boisvert told police he broke into those two places to look for money, according to a police affidavit filed in court.

Those indictments, dated April 21 and released on Thursday, add to Boisvert’s list of pending charges. The 28-year-old faces two arson charges and an attempted arson charge, as well as two first-degree assault charges and two witness tampering charges.

He pleaded not guilty to all of them earlier this month. The arson counts stem from the church fire and a fire in January 2016 on Hanover Street Extension. The attempted arson count is connected to a fire he allegedly set in the basement of 68 Mascoma St. on the night of the church blaze.

The assault and witness tampering charges allege he attacked Wade Bennett and Dianne Faughnan with a knife at the Boulders Condominiums in Lebanon in the days after the church incident, and did so in retaliation for Bennett and Faughnan giving information to the police.

Boisvert’s sister, Andrea Gilbert, also appeared in court earlier this month, where she entered a not guilty plea to a single count of falsifying physical evidence. Police allege Gilbert erased information on her cellphone to keep it from investigators.

Gilbert remains free on bail. Boisvert is currently incarcerated at the Grafton County Jail in North Haverhill on $500,000 bail.

He has a dispositional conference slated for May 17 in Grafton Superior Court in North Haverhill, where the case is being prosecuted.

Since February, the First Baptist Church congregation has been meeting at the Lebanon Middle School. The space has proved to fit the church’s needs, so officials have decided to stay past their March contract date.

Though the fire dealt the congregation a blow, members are pushing on, Davio said.

“The spirit of our congregation is high,” he said. “A lot of healing has occurred as individuals and as a group, which is a testament of our faith and unity. Having momentum on the building process helps set our eyes on the future.”

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at or 603-727-3248.

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