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The Daily



10-14-03: Two men suspected of area school, church break-ins


Two Greenville area men, who are suspects in a rash of breaking and enterings at schools and churches in Mercer County, were arrested Saturday night in Union City.
The Darke County Sheriff’s Office has not released the identities of the adult males. It is believed they were taken into custody at a residence.
Kip Wright, a detective with the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office, said local authorities have been working with Darke County detectives after learning there had been similar crimes in that jurisdiction.
“We contacted law enforcement agencies in the area and learned they had some breaking and enterings with a similar M.O. (method of operation),” he said. “The similarities were so strong we felt there had to be a connection.”
A break in the case apparently came Friday morning when an employee at Marion Local Schools heard a suspicious noise in the building that houses elementary and junior high school classes and went to investigate. Two males, carrying what appeared to be a tool bag and a pry bar, were spotted shortly before 5:30 a.m. They quickly fled the premises.
Deputies called to the scene found several offices had been entered and ransacked, with papers and other items tossed about the rooms. The culprits allegedly tried to break into a safe but their attempts were unsuccessful.
Wright said the break-in at Marion Local bore striking similarities to a pair to incidents at two Montezuma locations the previous day. Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, 6701 Ohio 219, and Franklin Elementary School, 6731 Ohio 219, between 10 p.m. Wednesday and 7 a.m. Thursday.
The culprits apparently roamed throughout the church, pulling out drawers and ripping cabinets doors from their hinges. Papers, books and other items apparently were left as they fell. At some point they pounded or pried on a tabernacle door and then strewed communion hosts over the floor.
Similar damage was found at the school, where glass was broken in exterior as well as interior doors. Drawers and cabinets also were ripped open with contents strewn haphazardly across the floor.
Agents from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification were called in to assist with processing evidence at both scenes, according to Wright.
Deputies had been working closely with the Coldwater Police Department, which is investigating break-ins Oct. 10 or 11 at Coldwater United Methodist Church and Coldwater Exempted Village Schools.
Officials at the churches and schools continue to make inventories in hopes of compiling a list of missing items.
Wright believes the sharing of information between departments led to the arrests. He and fellow detective Pat Elking hope to interview the suspects Tuesday at the Darke County Jail.


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