Vandals, Burglars Strike Churches

Alcoa, Blount County (WVLT) - A week after copper thieves struck two Blount County churches, vandals and burglars strike three churches in Maryville and Alcoa.

One suspect is in custody.

Nineteen-year-old Jefferson James Helton is charged with burglary, vandalism, and theft.

And police are getting warrants for a second.

Volunteer TV’s Blount County Bureau Chief Stephen McLamb has more on the damage that could cost thousands to fix. It even canceled services at one church.

The vandals acted much like a Halloween prank. For one church they found money and got their treat with minimal damage. But for two churches where they didn't find any, they left a path of destruction.

Three churches in Alcoa and Maryville were burglarized and vandalized sometime Tuesday night. At St. John Methodist in Maryville, the thieves broke open doors to the church office.

"This took a lot to break this I'm sure. This is safety glass and it's, awful lot of effort,” says Richard Mullan, pastor at St. John Methodist.

They did get away with a little something.

"They got some petty cash. That's about it,” says Pastor Mullan.

Police say they also hit two churches in Alcoa, East Alcoa Baptist and Calvary Baptist. At these churches they found no money at all.

"We can't find anything missing. Things that would be of value...a palm pilot or digital camera. They're still here,” says Calvary Baptist Church pastor Danny Davis.

But what they did cost them a lot more than petty cash as windows were broken and both churches were sprayed throughout with their own fire extinguishers covering everything.

"Well, we had to cancel our Wednesday service because this is a bit of an irritant,” Davis says.

From expensive musical equipment to floors, everything was covered in both church sanctuaries.

Glass company workers were already at the churches replacing glass windows shot out by the vandals. Total repairs are expected in the thousands. Some wonder how anyone can do what these people did to a church.

"I've kind of learned now people do just about anything and it's a sin problem we have in the world,” says Pastor Davis.

"If they knew the people of St. John. They knew that this was a church where you could have come and asked for help and we would have given them what we had. I mean, you don't have to break in,” Pastor Mullan adds.

But there was some good news, as one pastor says, he had some money hidden in an envelope for his wife's anniversary present, which they didn't find.

Pastor Davis says he has since taken the money out of the church.

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