CONNELLY SPRINGS — The Burke County Sheriff’s Office announced Wednesday that it has interviewed multiple juvenile suspects during its investigation of a September break-in at Israel Chapel AME Church in Connelly Springs.
The investigation has been turned over to a separate agency due to the suspects’ ages.
“During the course of this investigation, detectives from the Burke County Sheriff’s Office received an anonymous tip from a citizen that led to the identification of the offenders in this case,” the release said. “Upon further investigation, all the offenders were found to be juveniles living in or visiting the Israel Chapel Church Road community.
“All the juveniles were subsequently interviewed in the presence of their legal guardians and, due to the age of the offenders, the case has now been referred to the Department of Juvenile Justice for prosecution.”
On Sept. 14, a sheriff's deputy was dispatched to a break-in report at Israel Chapel AME at 2713 Israel Chapel Church Road in Connelly Springs. The deputy spoke with a church member, who said that services had not been held at the church since March, and the last time the church was checked for security purposes was June 7.
The church member had gone that day to the 150-year-old church. He noticed the deadbolt was unlocked and realized the church had been broken into, vandalized and some equipment had been taken, the release said.
The Sheriff's Office said that it appeared that a fire extinguisher had been set off inside the church and the altar had been spray painted with graffiti. There was property thrown throughout the church, and the suspects had walked on top of the pews, leaving footprints in the dry chemical extinguisher residue.
The News Herald previously reported dismay over the break-in by churchgoers and Connelly Springs Mayor Johnny Berry, who said that a $1,000 reward was being offered to anyone with information that led to an arrest and conviction of those responsible for the crime.