Pastor reacts to hate crime charges against suspect in MLK Jr. Church fire

Hampden County

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The Reverend Doctor Terrlyn Curry Avery was thinking of scripture after receiving the call of the new charges against Dushko Vulchev of Houlton, Maine.

“What does the lord require of us? To do justly, to love mercy and to walk confident with God and that’s really what we’re about,” she told 22News in a phone interview.

An affidavit obtained by 22News cites charges against Vulchev for damaging religious property and the use of fire to commit a federal felony. The federal charges being announced months after that December 28th fire.

“I’m comfortable with how long it has taken,” The Reverend Doctor said. “I would rather them to do their job well so that we don’t have any mistakes going forward rather than to do it hastily.”

The FBI investigation found Vulchev set the fire that destroyed the Church and committed acts of arson and vandalism before that. The investigation also found Vulchev sent messages to multiple witnesses using racial slurs, saying he wanted to eliminate black people.

The Reverend Doctor of the predominately black church said she hopes the community will continue to live in hope and love, “…and not let the word hate take us into a tailspin where we are focusing on the hate rather than the love.”

The church is continuing to hold services over Zoom, but they’re looking for an outdoor space to worship.

Vulchev will be in federal court in Springfield at a later date.

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