[UPDATE] Churches Targeted by Thieves

By: Jerry Askin, Deneige Broom Email
By: Jerry Askin, Deneige Broom Email

UPDATE 04-13-2011 at 6:15pm by Jerry Askin

Richard Taylor says his church once had four air conditioners, now there are none. Gadsden County sheriff’s deputies arrested 18-year Keveonte Baker at about 10:30 Wednesday morning after a WCTV viewer spotted him stealing air conditioner units from the Stewart Temple Church in Quincy. But deputies say it's not the only church he's hit.

“Anyone who steals from the church, they need to take a second look at themselves and realize that this is a sacred place - a place of worship," says Taylor.

"We believe that he is the suspect in all of our church burglaries and we believe that he is the suspect in some residential burglaries," says Ulysses Jenkins from the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office.

Investigators say four churches have been burglarized in the past few months and three of those were hit in the last three days. They say thieves have been taking air conditioning units for the copper inside, which is valued at $3,000 per unit.

Witnesses say they saw Baker leave the church grounds and speed down Woodward Road. That's when they called the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies caught up with Baker's white SUV on New Hebron Road in Quincy. They say in the back of his jeep they found the church’s two air conditioning units. Residents are relieved.

"The community is more at ease now because we know he's behind bars. The sheriff’s department done their job," says John Hoggins, a Quincy resident.

Gadsden County investigators believe Baker wasn't operating alone and they're now trying to track down anyone else who may have helped rob these churches.

If you have any information about the burglaries or if you see anything suspicious, contact the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office at 850-627-9233.

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UPDATE: 4/13 at Noon - Quincy, Florida -

18-year-old Keveonte Baker from Quincy was arrested in connection with a theft reported at the Steward Temple church off Woodward Road. Authorities say Baker was apprehended off New Hebron Road in Quincy. Authorities are saying that Baker may be responsible for the rash of 5 church thefts at 4 separate churches that occurred in the past month.

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UPDATED: 4/13 at: 10:55 a.m.

A WCTV viewer helps nab the man the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office says has been ripping off churches.

Investigator Ulysses Jenkins from the sheriff's office says a resident who had seen a previous WCTV report on the church thefts called about someone messing with an air conditioning unit. Shortly after, they took the man in custody.

We'll have more details as they become available, including a mug shot of the suspect.

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Earl Kenon grew up at Saint John AME in Gadsden County.

He's lived right down the street since the 90's.

But in one foul swoop someone has violated his church and put his home in danger.

His church and a handful of others have been burglarized in the last couple of months.

Air conditioning units have been the main target.

That's leaving Kenon's congregation and others feeling defenseless.

"We always help people," said Kenon. "We're good about that. We just paid a lady's light bill for $500. So if we help people and somebody comes by and breaks into the church, that kind of cuts down, we won't be able to help them."

Investigators believe the thieves could be people who work on air conditioning units.

They think they're stripping the units for parts, which can be expensive, and getting what they can for the copper.

Gadsden County's Sheriff Morris Young has told his investigators to utilize all of their resources to track down the culprits.

Investigator Ulysses Jenkins with the sheriff's office is helping lead the charge.

"This began last summer with vacant homes and new construction," said Jenkins. "What's happened this year is we're seeing it again and it's moved to the churches. A church is a pillar of any community so when people start hitting churches it just takes on a different connotation."

Jenkins suspects the thieves could move back into residential areas if they aren't caught soon.

In the meantime, Kenon's church and the others are trying to pick up the pieces before sizzling temperatures hit.

Investigators say they're following leads, but the most important information comes from you.

If you have any information about the burglaries or if you see anything suspicious, call the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office at 850-627-9233.


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