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Monday, May 10, 2021

31-year-old Leesburg man charged with starting fire at church near his residence

Michael James Leachman
Michael James Leachman

A Leesburg man with a checkered legal past is behind bars in the Lake County Jail after being accused of setting a church on fire near his home.

Lake County sheriff’s deputies arrested 31-year-old Michael James Leachman on Monday and charged with second-degree arson in connection with a January fire at GraceWay Church, located at 10200 Morningside Dr. – about 200 yards from Leachman’s residence on Patrick Drive. He also was charged with two counts of burglary, one of which involved a building at the church, a Lake County Sheriff’s Office report states.

Deputies responded on Jan. 10 to Leachman’s residence after his mother asked them to perform a well-being check on her son. She told deputies he had come home “high” and left the residence heading toward nearby Radio Road, the report says.

Deputies didn’t locate Leachman but his mother called a second time and said she was hearing noises in the backyard of her home in the Chelsea Park neighborhood. She said she wanted to make sure Leachman wasn’t back at the residence, the report says.

Minutes later, the fire was reported at a recreation building connected to the chapel building at GraceWay Church. Deputies discovered that a window at the facility had been forcibly broken from the outside and a door appeared to have been kicked in. The Fire Marshal confirmed the blaze was a result of arson and said it appeared to have been set to conceal a burglary, the report says, adding that a second building at the church also had been burglarized.

Leachman also was arrested in January 2020 after he was found passed out on the porch of his residence. Deputies determined that he was under the influence and he was found to be possession of trafficking amounts of heroin (packaged for sale), methamphetamine, Clonazepam, Hydrocodone, Suboxone, marijuana and $1,126 in cash, a sheriff’s office report states

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