Two burglaries, one of which involved alleged desecration of religious statues, have been recorded at Wellington’s St. Patrick’s Catholic Church since Dec. 17.
Jeffrey Anderson, 26, of Wellington, has been indicted on felony counts of burglary and desecration stemming from the latest break-in, which occurred Jan. 14.
Derek Jackson, 34, of Mississippi, was found in the church the morning of Dec. 17 and was indicted on a single burglary charge.
Anderson allegedly urinated on a statue after removing it from a classroom and placing a rosary on it, threw a crucifix into a trash can, and dumped a bottle of holy water into a toilet.
A security camera installed by father David Trask after the first break-in captured Anderson entering the church wearing nothing but a pair of pants.
In the two incidents, which police say are unrelated, the men were found in the church’s basement and had to be removed when authorities arrived, according to Trask, who was present in the church during both break-ins.
“Gratefully, after the first break-in we started locking our interior doors,” he said. “(Anderson) was only able to put his hands on a small assortment of items rather than getting into the church itself. He was only able to get into our residence and classroom area.”
Both men were found to be intoxicated and told officers they were being chased when discovered at the church, said Wellington police chief Tim Barfield.
“There were really similar stories from them, which is very odd,” he said. “This was in a few weeks of each other. In both cases, there’s no evidence to suggest they were being chased by anyone. That’s not to say it’s not true, but there’s no evidence.”
Jackson is free on bond and Anderson is being held at the Lorain County Jail.
Trask added that it took a good amount of effort to get the rosary off of the wall and that Anderson was naked when found in the basement.
“This is a rosary with beads about the size of a small egg,” he said. “It’s probably eight to 10 feet in length. It’s not like a handheld thing. It was an intentional act.”
The church does not have a history break-ins.
“I talked to one of the responding officers who’s been on the force for 30 years and he said they’ve never had a problem,” Trask said. “The former pastor was here for 40 years and told me there was never a problem. Granted, he had a dog on hand, but even there, at 3 and 4 a.m., the dog would’ve been sleeping upstairs with him and would’ve only gotten involved after hearing glass break. That’s not much of a deterrent.”
Replacing the broken windows will cost about $1,300 while the dollar figure for interior damage has yet to be determined.
Parishioners have been supportive to the church throughout the ordeal.
“After the first burglary, they said we might want to invest in an alarm system,” said Trask. “After the second one, they said, ‘You’d better get an alarm system.’ I was impressed with the support. Even when I first came to the parish, our finance director recommended getting an alarm instead of a dog. I couldn’t justify that expense with no previous issues, but now, that’s a different story.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.