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Barrie church arsonist pleads guilty

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The Barrie man accused of setting a fire that caused significant damage at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church last year has pleaded guilty to two counts of arson.

CTV News has learned Lance Freeman, now 39, pleaded guilty in December and was sentenced to spend one month in jail after he received credit for 15 months of pre-sentence custody.

He was also placed on probation for three years.

Court documents say Freeman admitted to torching the church on Feb. 19, 2023, and starting a fire in a stairwell at a Collier Street bank.

The church provided CTV News with surveillance video which showed a man leaving the church seconds after flames were seen inside the building.

The church, which served the community for about 180 years, was damaged so extensively that St. Andrew’s Presbyterian board announced it was forced to close its doors for good at the Owen Street location.

As a result of the fire, its congregation of about 75 people attended church at other locations.

The 8/10-acre downtown Barrie property is valued in the millions of dollars, and it is expected to be redeveloped.

Freeman has a lengthy criminal history and admitted struggles with mental health. He was also ordered to submit his DNA and is banned from having weapons for life.

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