MAGNA — Investigators believe they know who broke into Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church twice in one week, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage in addition to stealing thousands of dollars of church property.
Three teenagers first broke into the church, 2864 S. 9000 West, on Aug. 25 by kicking in the priest's residence attached to the main building, according to a newly-released search warrant filed in 3rd District Court. Police say they "destroyed several valuable antique religious artifacts and stole multiple items including jewelry, wine and a television."
One of the teens has since been charged in 3rd District Juvenile Court with burglary, theft and destruction of property, all felonies.
Police got a break in the case when a cellphone was later found in the church that had been left behind by one of the suspects, according to the search warrant.
Initially, investigators received an anonymous tip about two of the suspects. A detective went to talk to the boys at their home in Magna, but their father wouldn't allow it without a warrant, the court documents state. The father said he would talk to the boys himself, and a couple of days later told the detective that they denied any involvement.
That's when the phone of the third teenage suspect, from West Jordan, was found. Unified police detectives interviewed that boy on Sept. 20. He admitted that he and the two others broke in, according to the warrant.
"They broke open locks and opened drawers, and used keys they found to unlock the kitchen. Inside the kitchen, they drank sodas and threw soda cans around," the warrant states.
The teen told police the trio "made a mess" in the kitchen, "went around the church breaking statues and other items" and took two golden cups, money, wine and some food, the warrant stated. The juveniles left, but then returned to the church about 3 a.m. the next morning and broke picture frames, then stole a briefcase and TV, according to the warrant. Inside the briefcase was a 24-karat gold cross and a small bottle of wine.
When police went back to interview the other two boys, they learned their family had been evicted from their home.
On Sept. 30, a man called police saying he had information about the church burglary but didn't want to give it unless he got a reward. He said he knew the boys took a crucifix and 24-karat gold chains. On Oct. 8, detectives contacted the man and told him he had information about the case that had not been released publicly and could be arrested for obstruction of justice if he didn't tell police everything he knew, the warrant states. The man then told detectives that the two boys who were evicted approached him about pawning some of the stolen church items. They also admitted they had stolen those items from the church, according to the warrant. Police then learned where the two other boys were living and requested a search warrant for their residence.
After serving the warrant, police said they found two necklaces and a ring, drug paraphernalia and six fake IDs.
All of the suspects are between the ages of 14 and 16. Charges against the other two were pending as of Monday.