09/16/11 — Thieves attacking air conditioning units at local churches

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Thieves attacking air conditioning units at local churches

By Gary Popp
Published in News on September 16, 2011 1:46 PM

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Pastor Mike Williams of Free Chapel Church inspects the damage done to the back of his church where thieves stole five air conditioning units. The cost to replace the units will be close to $25,000. Thieves steal air conditioning units to strip the copper out of them.

The pastor of a church that had all five of its air conditioners stolen said he is asking his congregation to still think of people as basically good.

Earlier this month, someone stole the units -- valued at $25,000 -- from Free Chapel Church at 3302 N.C. 111 North.

Detectives with the Wayne County Sheriff's Office were able to track some of the equipment to a local scrap yard. Mark Christopher Tadlock, 25, of Leavie Drive in Pikeville, was eventually charged with larceny and possession of stolen property.

The Rev. Mike Williams said he was shocked to hear of the theft. A church is a sacred place that demands respect, Williams said, and it is unfortunate that a person could be so callous to put their desire for a quick gain above an entire community. But that should not change church members' opinion of people, he said.

"Even though this has happened, it is definitely not going to stop our efforts of sharing the gospel or stop us from being a church or keep us from looking at the good of man," Williams said.

Williams said his message to the members of Free Chapel Church will be to practice the principles on which their faith is founded.

"I want to encourage people to forgive those that despiteful use us, love those that feel unlovable and move on," Williams said.

Sheriff's Office Maj. Tom Effler said there was evidence found at Tadlock's residence that linked him to the crime scene.

Effler said some air-conditioning components found at the scrap yard had been dismantled from the original unit and cut into sections.

Tadlock was placed in the Wayne County Jail under an $8,000 bond.

The theft is one of the largest metal thefts in Wayne County that occurred at one location, Effler said. He added that the investigation is ongoing and additional arrests could be made.

Free Chapel Church celebrated its centennial two years ago and knows something about resiliency, Williams said.

"We may be a victim right now, but we are not going to remain a victim," Williams said. "We are going to continue to do what we have been doing for 102 years."