Serial Verona Church Vandal Takes It One Step Further: Arson, Cops Say

A 42-year-old Verona man with a history of vandalizing a Catholic church in Verona was charged with intentionally setting a fire there  on Thursday, April 4, authorities said.

Elliot Bennett 

Elliot Bennett 

Photo Credit: Essex County Department of Corrections

At 3:33 a.m., Verona police responded to Our Lady of the Lake Roman Catholic Church on Lakeside Avenue and observed a heavy smoke condition, Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens, II and Verona Police Chief Christopher Kiernan said.

Firefighters were called to the scene and quickly extinguished the blaze, authorities said. An investigation determined the fire was started deliberately and arrested Elliot Bennett after he walked into police headquarters, authorities said.

Bennett was charged with bias intimidation, burglary, aggravated arson and multiple weapons offenses, authorities said. He is being held at the Essex County Correctional Facility pending a court appearance. 

Last year, Bennett was arrested after he said he smashed a statue of Jesus Christ outside the church, police said. Officers had recognized Bennett from previous incidents of vandalism at the church, police said.

In 2018, Bennett was arrested after he smashed statues of Jesus, Saint John and the Blessed Mary, saying people "worshipping false idols made from stone" goes against his beliefs, according to

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