Thursday, March 15, 2012
Thieves hit churches
By SUE WATSON
Four church burglaries within about a 15-mile radius of each other in the last two weeks have law enforcement seeking tips that will develop suspects.
Sheriff Kenny Dickerson set up a news conference at Apostolic Lighthouse Church Tuesday morning after the pastor reported a day earlier that the church was robbed.
Major Kelly McMillen, who conducted the news conference before a bank of television cameras to get the word out quickly, said the church burglaries included three others – Chulahoma, Marianna and one on Highway 309. The burglars in the robbery of the Apostolic Lighthouse Church on Highway 4 West near the Marshall/Tate county line were strictly looking for cash or easy grabs like laptop computers.
Pastor Wesley Newby said he came to the church around 9 Monday morning and discovered thieves had broken in the back door, gone to his office and broken in that locked door, then went into a storage room in the back of his study and stole a 300-400 pound safe lock-stock-and-barrel. They also took a computer.
Thieves took the safe with them but did more damage to the church than anything else, he said. Important church papers were in the safe and names and addresses of church members were on the computer, he said.
The value of the safe was estimated to be several thousand dollars, McMillen said.
Other church break-ins involved loss of laptops. He said pastors do not anticipate any security problems since personal identification is not kept by churches.
“They are doing more damage in construction damage to the building and tearing up Coke machines to get the change,” he said.
The first break-in in this rash was the Yarborough Chapel Church, he said.
Last summer churches in the northern portion of the county were being hit by copper thieves who were stripping air conditioning systems.
“If anyone can help us, maybe we can stop this,” McMillen said.
Thieves are believed to be breaking in churches late at night or in the afternoons, he said.
Newby said he is sad the church he helped organize nine years ago – that just moved into a new sanctuary about four years ago – was robbed. The church was first organized at Wyatt Loop.
He said he would forgive the thief.
“We are reaching out to people like them who need a change in their lives,” he said of the burglars who passed right by the Ten Commandments near the door in his study in order to steal from the store room. “We would have church 24 hours a day so anytime they want to come to church they can.
“We are a struggling church built by working people who put their money into this,” he said.
The new church opened four years ago Easter Sunday.
McMillen said no doubt the thieves had done this in other communities and knew how to look for stuff they wanted to take.
Anyone who has any information that may help investigators develop suspects in these four church robberies is asked to call Marshall County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-729-2169 or the sheriff’s office at 662-252-1311. All callers may remain anonymous when providing tips at either telephone location.
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