EL CAJON - An ex-con who set a series of fires inside a Catholic church near Mount Helix, causing more than $200,000 in damage, was sentenced Wednesday to nearly 29 years in state prison.
Eugene William Volk, 46, pleaded guilty in April to an arson charge and admitted a hate crime allegation.
Volk has prior "strike" convictions from a 1991 vehicular manslaughter case and a 1988 residential burglary, said Deputy District Attorney Andy Aguilar.
The defendant was arrested last Oct. 10 as he walked near fire-damaged Santa Sophia Church on San Juan Street in Spring Valley.
Firefighters were called to the church just north of Campo Road and state Route 94 last Oct. 8 about 8 p.m. It took firefighters about 10 minutes to put out the three separate blazes, which caused extensive damage to the church interior.
According to testimony at a hearing last December, a man who had hired Volk to do some work, and subsequently let him go, said Volk had confronted him before the arsons and had made disparaging remarks about Catholics.
After his arrest, Volk also made derogatory comments to investigators about the Catholic church, Aguilar said.