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Area churches burglarized, two suspects in custody

Two individuals are now in custody after a tip alerted the Butler County Sheriff’s Office to suspects who may be responsible for a pair of recent church burglaries.

The duo, who have yet to be officially charged, are believed to be connected to robberies at Oak Valley Baptist Church and Bragg Hill AME Zion Church, both located in the northwest end of Butler County along Ridge Road (albeit several miles apart).

Butler County sheriff Kenny Harden said that authorities were called to Oak Valley Baptist Church last Friday in reference to a break-in near their old church, which is located right next to their current one.

“When we got there, it was reported that two air conditioners had been stolen from the church,” Hardens aid.

Once sheriff’s office had completed their investigation of Oak Valley, other churches in the area were checked for signs of a similar break-in.  A short while later, it was revealed that Bragg Hill AME Zion Church had seen a similar fate.

“They had two air conditioners taken from there, two stepladders, a keyboard, speakers, a microphone and other miscellaneous items,” Harden said.

The value of items stolen from the two churches is approximately $2,000, according to Harden.

But Tuesday night, a break was made in the investigation, thanks to a concerned citizen’s tip.

“We received a call from a person in another county who thought she might have one of the air conditioners,” Harden said.  “She told us who she bought it from, and we looked at the air conditioner and confirmed that it was one of the units taken from the church.

“We obtained a search warrant Wednesday and went to a residence on Ridge Road and searched it, and there we found two more air conditioners and two stepladders that we knew were taken from one of the churches.  And we also found a meth lab.”

Harden said that air conditioner thefts are nothing new, even if recent legislation has changed what thieves do with stolen units.

“A few years ago, they were stealing and cutting the copper out of air conditioners and selling them,” he said. “But they passed laws where they couldn’t just sell it.  You had to be a licensed air conditioning person, an electrician or a plumber to sell the copper.  So that cut down on thefts.”

Harden added that the investigation remains an ongoing one, though he is grateful to the aid of everyday citizens for their assistance in the case.

“I do want to thank the citizens who reported it,” Harden said. “We’ve got some good people.

“A church is something that the community needs.  And when you go breaking into churches, you’re affecting the whole community.  And we’re not going to tolerate you breaking into churches.  We’re going to do everything we can to catch a person who breaks into a church.”