A black Baptist minister from Chesterfield County was sentenced Thursday to serve two years in prison for setting his front porch ablaze in a phony hate crime attack that included racist graffiti he painted to deceive police.Olander D. Cuthrell, 41, a minister of music at Gospel Shepherd Baptist Church, told the judge he was both ashamed and embarrassed for pouring a mixture of oil and gasoline across part of his family’s front porch and igniting it March 15 after becoming overwhelmed by financial problems.Minutes before, he spray-painted the N-word on two sides of his rental house in the 7800 block of Little Ridge Court to divert attention from himself and bolster his claim of being the target of a racially motivated attack.He further perpetuated the fraud by igniting a 16-ounce bottle filled with oil and gas inside an inoperable, family-owned 1992 BMW parked outside the house.After setting the two fires, he went back inside the house, undressed and climbed into bed, “waiting for the house to burn down,” Chesterfield prosecutor Laura Khawaja told the court in arguing for a stiff punishment.His oldest son discovered the porch fire after the family dog woke him, and was able to extinguish the flames with water before it spread to the house occupied by Cuthrell, his wife and three of his sons. The car fire burned out on its own.The incident prompted Chesterfield police and the FBI to investigate the matter as a possible hate crime, and Cuthrell fueled that notion by telling several news outlets he was the victim of a racially motivated attack.Investigators quickly became suspicious and Cuthrell became the focus of their investigation within 10 days. He was arrested April 2. Cuthrell eventually admitted to setting the fires, telling investigators he was motivated by family financial problems.
Khawaja said there was a pattern to Cuthrell’s deceit. She noted that 12 years ago in North Carolina, he falsely claimed to police he had been robbed in an attempt to cover up his theft from an employer. He was convicted of filing a false police report.