FAIRFIELD — A Vacaville church pastor who allegedly warned his girlfriend last year that she would be creating a monster if she left him, made his first court appearance Tuesday after being charged with felony stalking and arson.
The Rev. Mark W. Lewis also faces felony fraud, perjury and attempted forgery charges arising from an investigation into how Lewis was able to come up with the means to post $500,000 bail shortly after his Jan. 10 arrest by Vacaville police.
Lewis did not enter pleas at the court appearance. Instead, Judge Peter B. Foor set a new bail at $535,000 for Lewis and ordered him to return to court Feb 4.
Lewis, 39, was first arrested the day after a Molotov cocktail shattered a bedroom window of his ex-girlfriend’s home, starting a small fire. Vacaville police Detective David Kellis said in a signed affidavit that Lewis promised to pay Anthony T. Newbolt $400 to torch the girlfriend’s home in the middle of the night.
None of the six occupants in the house, including three children, were hurt in the fire, which was doused before firefighters arrived at the Chateau Circle home.
Shortly after the Jan. 9 fire, Newbolt, 33, Richerd J. Wright, 28, and Kristen M. Broyles, 30, all from the Sacramento area, were spotted a short distance from the scene. They were arrested after a traffic stop. They have each pleaded not guilty to felony charges of arson and possessing an incendiary device and are scheduled for a March 3 probable cause hearing.
All three told investigators that Lewis planned and coordinated the arson and communicated with them via cellphone before and after the arson, according to court records.
Lewis was arrested again Friday while he was out of jail on bail. The arrest came after investigators said they learned Lewis used church property as collateral to post his bail. Investigators believe Lewis lied to the bail bond company by using the identity and corporation numbers of a church in Riverside and also used the same misinformation in 2008 to obtain a loan for his Vacaville church.
After posting bail Jan. 10, one of the first things Lewis did was call Fairfield criminal defense attorney Denis Honeychurch, who kept Lewis out of prison in 1997 after his conviction on a felony domestic violence charge.
Lewis became pastor at the Fellowship Baptist Church in 2000.
Honeychurch, who fended off an effort by prosecutors to set Lewis’ bail at $1 million, told reporters that the bail bondsman who handled the first bail amount was willing to handle the new bail.
One of the first things Honeychurch did for Lewis in his new cases was acquire a court order that required jailers to dress Lewis up in a suit and tie for Tuesday’s court appearance, which was attended by several local television and newspaper reporters. Also in court were the Vacaville police officers and District Attorney’s Office investigators who are still investigating the pastor. The hearing was also attended by about a dozen church members who watched their pastor as he tried not to look ill at ease while wearing a dress suit along with handcuffs, belly chains and shackles.
A supporter told a reporter after the hearing that Lewis is an innocent man, and that the pastor would never hurt the children who were in the home at the time of the alleged arson strike.
Lewis had been under police investigation for two years before his arrest and three different informants have told police Lewis was dealing methamphetamine and ordering retaliatory attacks on parishioners who left his church, according to court records.
Police said they found methamphetamine and an illegal handgun during a search of Lewis’ home and the church after his first arrest. During a second search of the home and church last week, police arrested Lewis’ uncle, Danny Lewis, 60, after they said they found a gun with a removed serial number in the elder Lewis’ bedroom.
Kellis said that Lewis called his ex-girlfriend on Christmas Eve and promised to ruin her Christmas. The next morning she discovered her car’s windshield had been shattered by a cobblestone. Another stone shattered another car window on New Year’s Eve.
The recurring vandalism prompted the ex-girlfriend to obtain a restraining order against Lewis. He was served with the restraining order Jan. 5. Hours later, another rock shattered another window of her car and somebody started a small fire in some bushes at her home.
Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.