Nazarene church latest victim of burglaries, vandalism

Sunday, January 2, 2005

Windows, televisions and computers were literally smashed to bits. Holes were pounded through doors and along hallways. Thousands of dollars of high-tech video and sound equipment was destroyed. A gash was ripped through the piano that is normally used to play songs of peace.

On Friday morning, workers at the First Church of the Nazarene in Cape Girardeau opened their doors to find that their church had been burglarized and savagely vandalized, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

But it's only the latest of five church burglaries -- though it is the worst case to date -- within the last month where Cape Girardeau churches were broken into. Two of them involved vandalism, the other three were primarily broken into for cash, said Cape Girardeau police Capt. Carl Kinnison.

On Thursday night or early Friday morning, a person or group of persons broke into Lighthouse Bible Baptist Church at 2826 Independence St., where police say almost $400 in cash was taken and some items were damaged.

Later that morning, police say probably more than one person smashed a window to get into the Nazarene church at 2106 Independence and probably spent more than an hour ravaging the interior of the church.

Kinnison said the other three churches -- Centenary Church at 300 N. Ellis, Cape First 254 S. Silver Springs Road and Grace United Methodist at Broadway and Caruthers -- were primarily broken into and money stolen. Those churches have been broken into over a four-week period, Kinnison said.

That the crimes were so different is what leads Kinnison to believe they weren't committed by the same person or group of people.

"In the others, they went in and took money and left," Kinnison said. "That doesn't sound like the same type of person who would just go in and destroy property. Of course, church vandalism and church burglaries are unusual in themselves."

Kinnison said police are investigating all the incidents, which are considered burglaries.

Pastor William Burke of the Nazarene church said they also stole a little more than $200.

They busted exit lights and knocked over a vending machine. They swung a television around by its chord until the chord broke, Burke said. They cut the screen in the worship center.

"It was like a tornado had come through the church," said Burke's wife, Jean Ann. "Everything was just beat to pieces."

Burke said it doesn't make sense to him, though he knows the church has people who disagree with it.

"So I don't think they were angry with one church," he said. "They're angry at THE church."

Burke said that before the police had even left the scene the morning after the burglary, church parishioners had lined up to help clean up. The church, though far from its original state, was to hold services this morning.

"That's when the church is at its best," Burke said. "They pull together. That's what the church is all about."

If Burke could talk to those responsible, Burke said he would tell them he's not angry, though several parishioners are.

"I would just tell them that Jesus loves them and that they don't have to have that anger in them," he said.

335-6611, extension 137

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