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Franklin Barrett Sechriest

Federal grand jury indicts San Marcos teen in Austin synagogue fire

Thursday, March 24, 2022

A San Marcos teen was indicted on three federal charges by a grand jury in connection with an Austin synagogue fire. 

Franklin Barrett Sechriest, 19, was indicted on an arson charge, hate crime - damage to religious property charge and a charge of use of fire to commit a federal felony. 

Sechriest, who attended Texas State University, was indicted for allegedly setting a fire at Congregation Beth Israel, 3901 Shoal Creek Blvd. in Austin, on Oct. 31, 2021. 

In a criminal complaint affidavit filed in a U.S. District Court filed on Nov. 12, 2021, FBI Special Agent Thomas P. Loy Jr. found that Sechriest wrote in a journal entry on Oct. 28, 2021 to “scout out a target." Three days later, he wrote, “I set a synagogue on fire,” in a two-page excerpt included in the court document. 

In the affidavit, Loy said Sechriest used an accelerant to start the fire near the entry of the synagogue. Previously, the Austin Fire Department also determined that an accelerant was used. The fire was set at approximately 9 p.m. on Oct. 31, 2021. The fire caused over $200,000 in damage, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Loy’s affidavit stated that surveillance video showed a dark colored SUV in the synagogue’s parking lot on Oct. 28, 2021 . FBI investigators used Texas Department of Motor Vehicle records to determine that the license plate was from a 2001 Jeep Cherokee and belonged to a person believed to be a relative of Sechriest at a residence in San Marcos. An FBI surveillance team observed Sechriest driving the vehicle on Nov. 8, 9 and 10 to and from Texas State University where he attends classes, the affidavit states. 

In the court document, FBI investigators executed a search warrant of Sechriest’s residence in San Marcos on Nov. 10, where they found several items related to the investigation. 

Investigators found clothes that matched those that the suspect was seen wearing on surveillance video on Oct. 31. A credit card was discovered that was used to purchase a green five-gallon VP racing fuel utility jug from Cabela’s in Buda. Additionally, FBI agents found three 33-ounce glass bottles, three 32-ounce bottles of lighter fluid, a lighter and an orange stormproof match case with matches during a search of Sechriest’s Jeep Cherokee. 

“Based on my training and experience, and that of other agents knowledgeable about exploding devices, these items are consistent with materials that can be used and combined to produce devices known as Molotov cocktails,” Loy wrote in the affidavit. 

FBI agents also found three stickers, which all featured antisemitic rhetoric. One said “the price of freedom is paid in blood,” with Nazi swastikas on the sticker. Another said “They hate your ancestors. They hate your culture. They hate your nation. They hate your religion. They hate your children … It’s okay to hate them back.” 

Investigators also found a 2021 planning calendar as well as multiple journals belonging to Sechriest, the affidavit states. In the calendar, he had marked a move-in day as well as an orientation day at Texas State followed by an entry entitled “n----- appreciation class” on Aug. 19. 

Sechriest would face a minimum of 10 years and maximum of 60 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or twice the loss suffered by the victim, and restitution for the amount of damage cost if he’s convicted on all three charges. DOJ stated that a federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. 

Sechriest has remained in federal custody since he was arrested on Nov. 12, 2021. 

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666