Local churches become target for thieves

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Reporter - Kendall Downing

MURPHYSBORO, Ill. - Two local churches have been the targets of break-ins over the past few days.

The first happened Saturday night at First Baptist Church in Murphysboro, Illinois. Then Sunday morning police got called to the Murphysboro United Methodist Church just a few blocks away. The Methodist church got hit again on Monday morning.

Tuesday morning police arrested 24-year-old James Michael Burke at his home. He's charged with three counts of burglary to a place of worship.

Tuesday afternoon police arrested 24-year-old Crystal Taylor, charging her with one count of burglary to a place of worship.

The pastors of both churches are questioning the motive for the crimes.

The evidence is still there. A bent door shows where somebody crept inside First Baptist Church in Murphysboro on Saturday night.

"It seems like they were more wanting cash than anything else," said Shaker Samuel, Pastor of First Baptist Church.

Samuel said the burglars weren't in his church long. They pried open a filing cabinet, then tried to hit an office.

"Anytime they try to open up the door, immediately the alarm goes off," he said.

He said the alarm scared them away empty-handed. But that wasn't the case just down the street at Murphysboro Methodist.

"The circumstances are a little unusual," said Larry Gilbert.

Gilbert said the thieves came in twice and took a flat screen television, a drum set, and money.

"They did make off with the offering from our Vacation Bible School, which was about $230," he said.

The next day they made a return trip for a safe and through it all shattered a 100-year-old stained glass window in the sanctuary.

Gilbert said the safe had nothing of real value inside. He's grateful that there wasn't much damage to the church, except for the stained-glass window.

"That's the biggest thing we lost," he said.

He said church leaders are looking for a way to put it back together.

Murphysboro Police said 24-year-old James Burke is already on parole from the Illinois Department of Corrections for retail theft. They believe he and Crystal Taylor acted together in the First Baptist Church burglary.

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