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Teen-ager awaits hearing on Tybee arson charge

Church fire not considered a hate crime.

By C. Edward Wilson

Kenneth Klingmeyer has been charged with first-degree arson and vandalism to a place of worship in connection with a fire inside St. Michael's Catholic Church on Tybee Island, according to Tybee police.
Klingmeyer, 17, from Wilmington Island, reportedly entered the Butler Avenue church about 1 a.m. Jan. 11 and set fire to a manufactured fire log, which ignited a cloth on an altar, Tybee police investigators said.

Volunteers working late at the church's nearby elementary school reported the fire.

The teen-ager turned himself in to Tybee police on Jan. 20, after his family hired defense attorney Michael G. Schiavone. Klingmeyer waived his first appearance in Recorder's Court that same day. His family posted a $10,000 bond and he was released from jail.

The FBI did not list the case as a hate crime, Schiavone said.

"That was obviously a significant ruling in the case," he said. "My view of the case is that a young teen-ager did something very juvenile. I base this on conversations that I have had with police and his family."

Klingmeyer had been attending a private school on Wilmington Island but now is enrolled in a Savannah public school, Schiavone said.

His next scheduled court appearance is Feb. 24 at the Tybee Island Courthouse.

When asked if any other person was being investigated in the case, Schiavone said he knew of no one else.

Previous police reports indicated that after the incident, Klingmeyer was seen entering a 1980s Grand Prix driven by another person.


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