06/29/09 — Air conditioning units stolen from churches

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Air conditioning units stolen from churches

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on June 29, 2009 1:46 PM

GRANTHAM -- Thieves have struck several churches across Wayne County, not to take money, but to steal the sanctuaries' air-conditioning units.

Selah Christian Church in Grantham was one of five churches targeted by thieves between June 14-18, said investigator Rick Farfour with the Wayne County Sheriff's Office.

Selah's pastor, Patrick Muston, said his church is lucky to have a couple of licensed heating and air-conditioning repairman as part of its congregation. But they were unable to repair the unit because it was an older model and the compressor had been removed. It had to be completely replaced, Muston said.

At the other four churches that were hit, repair wasn't an option -- a detective, who thinks the thefts are probably connected, said the other churches lost entire air conditioners, plus the pads underneath them, leaving congregations sweltering while trying to conduct services.

Shady Grove Church, Falling Creek Baptist Church, Stevens Chapel Church and Thunder Swamp Pentecostal Church were all victimized.

In all but Selah Church's case, the thieves were after the entire air conditioning unit, the detective said.

"It's pretty bad when you steal from someone, but in this case you steal from the house of the Lord, and it's not right," Farfour said.

The detective said he believes the air-conditioning units may have been stolen to illicitly install stolen air conditioning units cheaply.

He urged anyone with knowledge of the thefts, or anyone who suspects they might have been sold a stolen unit to come forward.

People who believe they may have information in the thefts can call Farfour at 919-731-1497 or the Crime Stoppers hotline at 735-2255.

In the meantime, Selah Church has installed motion sensors around its building to ward off any unwelcome visitors.

The pastor said a Saturday event at the church was salvaged because of the quick action of heating and air-conditioning repairmen Ed Aswell and Brooke Granth-am. And he said that although he hopes the thieves are caught, that he and his congregation also will pray for them.

"I pray for the people who did this, whatever drove them to do it," the pastor said. "But I also hate to see people suffering like that, from people doing stupid things."