Aryan Brotherhood arsonist gets 37-plus years prison time
A 26-year-old man who pleaded guilty to five racially motivated arsons in Crane last year was sentenced Wednesday to 37 1/2 years in federal prison.
Steven Scott Cantrell, a member of the white supremacist Aryan Brotherhood of Texas,admitted to destroying religious property in a Dec. 28 fire at the Faith in Christ Church in Crane and for attempting to kill a disabled African-American he believed lived at the church.
According to court documents, Cantrell became a sergeant in the Ace Deuce, a New Mexican branch of the Aryan Brotherhood gang, while serving a prison sentence there. When he relocated to Texas, he told authorities he sought to prove himself to the local chapter and went on an arson spree one night in Crane.
Cantrell ransacked the church and wrote threatening racist messages on the wall of the church next to the pastor’s office. He also “tagged” the church with references to the gangs Ace Deuce and Aryan Brotherhood, court records show.
A mentally and physically handicapped African-American man in a wheelchair passed the church, and Cantrell said he believed the man lived at the church and would be inside when he set fire to it. Authorities said Cantrell also believed that murdering the man would help him gain status with the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.
Because the man is considered a vulnerable victim, prosecutors could increase Cantrell’s punishment.
Members of the church, including the Rev. Ellis Lane, were present during Cantrell’s sentencing Wednesday morning. Lane told the court that he and his congregation forgave Cantrell and urged him to get help in dealing with his hatred.