Minister gets 2 years for arson
By Ashley McLeod, Staff Writer
Nov 4, 2013, 12:11
CHESTERFIELD — A former music minister of a Petersburg church was sentenced to two years in prison following his actions in creating a fake hate crime and arson.
On March 15, Olander D. Cuthrell poured a mixture of gasoline and oil on his front porch, as well as in an old family car in order to start the fires. During this crime, he also spray painted a racial slur onto the side of his house. Following these actions, Cuthrell went back inside his house and returned to his bed. While the fire spread, his wife and three of his sons slept inside the house.
Police were called to the scene in the 7800 block of Little Ridge Court in Midlothian around 4:15 a.m. and the fire was extinguished and no one was hurt.
During his sentencing hearing Thursday in Chesterfield Circuit Court, Cuthrell voiced his regrets on his actions.
“I cannot express how deeply, deeply sorry I am,” Cuthrell said.
Prosecutor Laura Khawaja spoke about Cuthrell’s previous record in order to bring a stiff punishment.
In 2001, Cuthrell was involved in an incident in North Carolina. According to Khawaja, Cuthrell reported a false robbery to police after he had in fact stolen from his employer. Khawaja noted this as a precursor to his later offense.
“Whatever happened to him there was not enough of a consequence,” Khawaja said.
Family members as well as the pastor of Gospel Shepherd Baptist Church, where Cuthrell worked, were in attendance to support him. Several members of the church had also written letters to the court in support of Cuthrell.
The army veteran pled to the judge to allow his time served, which was seven months, to be adequate punishment, saying that prison had been “the worst experience of my life.”
Judge T.J. Hauler sentenced Cuthrell to 10 years in prison, with eight suspended. Cuthrell will also have to pay for the damages involved with the property, which was a rental home.
During the investigation of the arson, the FBI became involved due to the racial slur and the possibility of the event being a hate crime. Cuthrell could undergo another trial on the federal level for lying to a federal officer.