More details released in church vandalism cases

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department is picking up more clues that suggest the vandalism of three local churches may be related to cases in Bartholomew County.

Detective Brian Shrader said a phrase was left at all three churches that was also left at a Bartholomew County church. Shrader would not share what the phrase was at this time.

A cross was also turned upside-down at one of the Brown County churches, which also occurred at a Bartholomew County church, he said.

Shrader said he is in daily contact with the Bartholomew County detective. Since July 7, two churches there have been affected. One church had items set on fire inside; the other had a large window and outside lights broken.

The first incident in Brown County occurred at Way of Holiness Tabernacle on Hurdle Road late in the evening June 21. Shrader said that’s the only church that had items stolen from it, but he could not release what was stolen since they are still searching.

“To our knowledge, that is the only place that has had anything stolen, including all of the churches even in Bartholomew County,” he said.

St. Agnes Catholic Church on McLary Road reported a burglary and vandalism on July 6. The crime is believed to have occurred the evening of July 5 or early in the morning July 6, the sheriff’s department said.

Shrader said vandals entered the St. Agnes church office only, not the actual church, to write on the walls.

On July 7, deputies responded to the Pike’s Peak Church of Christ on Bellsville Pike for a third report of burglary and vandalism. Officers believe the crime occurred between 2 p.m. July 6 and 10 a.m. July 7.

At Way of Holiness Tabernacle and Pike’s Peak Church of Christ, trash was left and the vandals used some kind of ink to write the phrase on the walls, Shrader said.

In Bartholomew County, vandals set several fires in the 100-year-old Ohio Chapel United Methodist Church, according to The Republic. The fires burned out before they consumed the building, but the church still sustained damage. It was reported July 7.

The Triumphant Baptist Church on Southern Crossing in Bartholomew County reported broken exterior flood lights and a shattered large window on July 10, according to the Republic. The church’s alarm system notified police automatically about intruders, but when deputies arrived the vandals had already left, Pastor Richard Vogsberger said. The interior of the church was not damaged, but Vogsberger said that was likely due to the alarm system.

There seems to be no theme in the types of churches being targeted, Shrader said.

“It’s not by denomination. It’s just ‘pick a church, vandalize a church,’” he said.

Brown County deputies are doing 30 to 40 checks a night on local churches. “I would say it’s a top priority right now,” he said.

He suggests that churches buy cameras if they don’t have them already. He also encourages church neighbors and passers-by to keep watch.

“People need to pay a lot more attention to what’s going on at the churches for the time being,” he said.

“Anybody that is parked at the church after hours, any lights on at the church, we want to be made aware of it.”

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Suzannah Couch grew up in Brown County, reading the Brown County Democrat. A 2013 Franklin College graduate, she covers business, cops/courts, education and arts/entertainment.