Church shocked by $14,000 in thefts, desecration

By Jared Leone Times Staff Writer
Published October 19, 2007

TOWN 'N COUNTRY - As if stealing two, 5-ton outdoor air conditioners from a church was not bad enough, somebody broke into the church's new worship center a second time. Next missing: sound equipment and two interior air handlers.

The crimes, both occurring in September, cost the Living Faith Baptist Church an estimated $14,000. During the second break-in, someone defecated on the sanctuary floor.

"The heinousness of the crime in itself and that the defecation just took it to another level," Deacon Mike James said. "You would see that as whoever the perpetrators were ... it is almost seen as a hate thing."

James said the thieves also tried, but failed, to take the nearly 7-foot tall glass doors, too.

Debbie Carter, Hillsborough sheriff's spokeswoman, said the still-open case has been turned over to property detectives.

A year's worth of construction was to be unveiled Nov. 1. The new building would be a place congregants could call their own.

The church has rented out various venues for 14 years, and currently meets at the Children's Home, 10909 Memorial Highway. The new building would feature a sanctuary, nursery, kid's room and a small kitchen, James said.

Tucked near a retirement community and a Wal-Mart on Waters Avenue, the church never experienced a backlash from neighbors during construction. "No one has ever come out and said, 'Hey, we don't want a church here,'" James said.

About Sept. 9, thieves broke into the church and stole two exterior air conditioners valued at $6,000. Almost two weeks later, about Sept. 26, thieves again broke in, this time taking two indoor air handlers and the sound equipment. That was when they soiled the floor as well.

"It was just the most unspeakable thing you would want to witness in your life," James said.

Jared Leone can be reached at jleone @sptimes.com or (813) 269-5314.