By Philip Timothy, Managing Editor
ALEXANDRIA (LBM) — Four Louisiana Baptist churches were among eight churches and six businesses in four parishes victimized by burglars and vandals in mid-July.
Richey Baptist in Deville, Rosefield Baptist in Grayson and New Ouachita Baptist in Enterprise were burglarized while Lakeside Baptist in Pineville had its sign vandalized.
According to investigators at the Sheriff offices in the four parishes (Avoyelles, LaSalle, Catahoula and Rapides), it does not appear the string of break-ins were linked in any way.
In the break-in at Richey, Pastor Grady Dodge says he has “them on camera.”
However, it was hard to make the thieves out as “the security cameras are not the best and the thieves wore long sleeves and hoodies. They definitely didn’t want to be seen.”
On July 17, between 12:30 a.m. until 2 a.m., the thieves came to the church three times.
At approximately 12:30 that morning, according to surveillance footage they broke into the church for the first time. “They broke in through the Life Center by busting down the door. They rummaged around the different buildings and made their way to a back room behind the sanctuary where they found our fireproof safe.”
The thieves were unsuccessful getting into the safe and even if they had, according to Dodge, they would not have purloined much.
“We had just bought that safe,” he said, “mainly to keep our important papers protected from a fire. We also kept a little change in there, but not much. They tried numerous times to get into it but they were not successful.
“I guess it was a pretty good buy after all,” Dodge chuckled.
The detective with the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office told Dodge that Richey was one of two churches (Centerpoint Pentecostal Church was the other) and six businesses that were hit along La. Hwy 115 that night and early the next morning.
“They didn’t get any money and they caused an estimated $800 worth of damage to the door,” Dodge said. “They didn’t completely tear the door up because I was able to somewhat bend it back until we can get it replaced.”
The thieves attempted similar pilferage during their second break-in that night, and Dodge said the thieves made their final assault around 2 p.m.
He said the thieves were making their way to his welding shop, which is located a little behind and to the right of the church when his dogs began to bark forcing them to flee.
Meanwhile, the other congregations did not learn about the theft and vandalism on their campuses until daybreak.
Kevin Tullos, a deacon at Rosefield Baptist Church which is without a pastor at the moment, said he was summoned to the church July 18 “by the lady who cleans the church when she discovered the doors standing wide open and saw where someone had been in the church.”
The 54-year-old Tullos, who has been going to Rosefield his entire life, said nothing like this had ever happened to the church. He said the thieves were “probably just looking for money.”
“They broke in and went through the drawers and closets,” he said. “They didn’t tear up anything, vandalize anything or steal anything. They could have taken the TVs or the sound system but the detective believe they were after money.”
Tullos said the irony in the situation is that no one would have been the wiser had the thieves not left the doors sitting wide open. “If they would have closed the doors behind them,” he said. “I don’t guess we would have known the church had been broken into.”
Pastor James King of New Ouachita Baptist Church said he “can’t figure the break-in out.”
“We do not lock the church,” he said. “People come and go as they want. We leave the gym open for the kids to play basketball and we even keep drinks in there for them.”
The thieves went through the church searching through drawers, closets and offices but did not steal anything. “My office was wide open. I had a computer, a fax machine and a printer in there but they did not take a thing. We had two TVs in the classrooms and a huge sound system and they did not fool with any of those things.”
But the thieves did go next door to the parsonage, stealing a TV and some guns. They caused an estimated $200 in damage breaking into the parsonage.
“The detective told me they were obviously looking for money, instead of items” King said. “They didn’t get any money here but they did steal money from the Pentecostal Church, located a short distance from our church.”
The Pentecostal Church has the thieves on its video system but they were wearing masks, long sleeve shirts and gloves so it is nearly impossible to identify them the detective told King.
“This is the first instance of this ever happening,” said King, who has been pastor at New Ouachita for the past seven years. “I hate to do it, but I think I am going to place some game cameras around, and if they do come back I will at least have their license plate and type vehicle they are driving.”
Lakeside Baptist Pastor Lloyd Bye said perpetrators damaged the church sign, hitting it with a piece of concrete. He said this is the first incident of vandalism on the church property in the 15 years he has been pastor there.
“We’re fortunate nothing else happened,” Bye said. “I realize it’s just material things but it’s God’s house. It’s disheartening.”