FAIRFIELD — The church pastor being investigated for a possible role in the Jan. 9 firebombing of the Vacaville home of his ex-girlfriend was under police investigation for the past two years for possible methamphetamine dealing, according to court records obtained Wednesday.
The Rev. Mark W. Lewis, 39, of the Fellowship Baptist Church, was arrested the day after the fire but he quickly posted $500,000 bail. Prosecutors have not filed any criminal charges against him but say the case is still being investigated.
Lewis has previously said he had no involvement with the arson and is being framed by three homeless people who were arrested near the scene of the fire. The trio, Anthony Newbolt, 33, of Sacramento; Richerd Wright, 28, of Sacramento; and Kristen Broyles, 30, of Citrus Heights are scheduled to be in court Thursday. They have pleaded not guilty to arson and other felony charges.
Authorities say a search of the church and Lewis’ adjacent home north of Vacaville after the arson attack turned up methamphetamine, an illegal handgun and evidence police say links Lewis to the crime.
Court records filed this week by an undercover Vacaville police narcotics investigator report he has been told by at least three informants in the past two years that Lewis has possessed and distributed methamphetamine and has conspired in burglaries, vandalism and witness intimidation. The informants talked to police “to get Lewis from ruining the lives of his constituents.”
Lewis did not attend a Wednesday hearing in which his ex-girlfriend was issued a three-year extension to a recently issued restraining order that bars Lewis from having any contact with her.
Police say Newbolt, Wright and Broyles, two of them ex-cons, independently said Lewis paid them to throw a Molotov cocktail through a living room window of the ex-girlfriend’s Chateau Circle home late at night where six people, including three children, were staying. Newbolt told police Lewis had an ounce of methamphetamine with him on Jan. 7 when they went to a casino and that they shared methamphetamine the next day, just hours before the arson, according to court records.
Police are reviewing cellphone records to confirm claims by the trio that they had communicated with Lewis shortly before and immediately after the arson attack.
The ex-girlfriend told reporters that Lewis used his role as a pastor to manipulate and use people. Her claims are echoed by three different people who in the last two years have told police that Lewis would gain the trust of vulnerable people by providing them food, shelter and comfort – things like cars and cellphones. Then he would pressure them to do his bidding, which included things like getting him methamphetamine and vandalizing and victimizing the property of people who wandered away from his sphere of influence, according to court records.
On Christmas morning, the ex-girlfriend discovered the windshield of her car, which was in her driveway, had been shattered. She reported the vandalism to police and blamed Lewis, who told police he had nothing to do with the incident.
The next day the ex-girlfriend received text messages from a blocked phone number that read: “Keep the police away from the church and Mark,” “Simple – no more cops, more peace,” “Sometimes people do things they wish they didn’t, don’t be one of those people,” “What are cops involved for” and “Get cops off his back.”
On New Year’s Day, the ex-girlfriend found her car had been vandalized again. Lewis once again told police he had nothing to do with it. A few days later, another window of her car was smashed and a small fire burned some bushes in the front yard of her home.
Efforts to contact Lewis were not successful. The church’s telephone has been disconnected.
Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.