RAFU STAFF AND WIRE SERVICE REPORTS
WEST COVINA — A man accused of setting a fire that caused more than $6.5 million in damage to St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Hacienda Heights last spring made his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon on arson and other charges.
Gregory Yusuke Shiga, 34, of Hacienda Heights was arrested Monday after a yearlong investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Arson/Explosives Detail and the FBI, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Shiga is charged with one count each of aggravated arson, arson of a structure or forest, possession of flammable material and second-degree commercial burglary. He was represented in his initial arraignment, which was continued to May 30, by a public defender. He remained jailed Wednesday in lieu of $1 million bail.
The criminal complaint alleges that Shiga caused multiple structures to burn; that the arson was caused by use of a device designed to accelerate the fire; and that the blaze caused property damage and other losses in excess of $6.5 million.
Shiga is accused of breaking into the church’s sanctuary just after midnight on April 16, 2011. Firefighters battled the blaze at the church, at 1345 Turnbull Canyon Road, for about 2 1/2 hours. Investigators determined that day that the fire had been intentionally set.
If convicted, he faces a minimum 10-year-to-life state prison sentence, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
At the time of his arrest, Shiga was on parole after pleading no contest to two counts of misdemeanor sexual battery. He was arrested last August after several female Rio Hondo College students said he inappropriately touched them as they looked over a petition he was asking them to sign. Shiga received a suspended one-year sentence from that case.
Court records also show that Shiga has convictions for grand theft and petty theft, for which he spent time in County Jail last summer.