Man suspected of stealing from churches in custody

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By Brian Louwers
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Collection boxes at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chaldean Catholic Church on 12 Mile Road were reportedly targeted as part of a string of thefts from local churches. A suspect was in Warren police custody on Dec. 1. (Photo by Brian Louwers)

WARREN — A man suspected of stealing cash from several Warren churches was in custody Dec. 1, hours after he allegedly broke into a collection box at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chaldean Catholic Church on 12 Mile Road, east of Van Dyke.

The suspect, a 53-year-old Warren resident, was reportedly observed by a parishioner at the church at about 8:30 p.m. Nov. 29. According to a police report, the woman said she noticed the “suspicious” man on church property, standing outside near the church’s shrine to the Virgin Mary. She said she later saw him inside of the church’s fellowship hall and that she confronted him when she didn’t recognize him as a member of the congregation.

Police said the woman indicated that the man then exited the church and drove away in a white Chevrolet pickup. A member of the congregation reportedly took a photo of the truck and noted the license plate number.

Parishioners later found that the donation box inside of the fellowship hall had been pried open and that the cash inside had been taken. A second box, located outside near the shrine, was also allegedly damaged.

Information provided by the witnesses reportedly led police to the suspect at his residence on Capitol between Dequindre and Warren, where he was arrested without incident.

Warren Police Detective Sgt. Stephen Mills said the suspect later admitted involvement in a string of other thefts and attempted thefts from local churches, including one on Nov. 28 at the Sacred Heart Chaldean Church on Dequindre, south of 13 Mile Road.

“Somebody went in and took a donation box containing an unknown amount of money from inside,” Mills said. “The church was open for service, but nobody viewed it.”

Mills said the theft at the Sacred Heart church took place at 9:49 p.m., while the church was open for services. The suspect was later observed on video when a church staff member noticed the box was missing and reviewed security camera footage.

The man, who was not identified pending his arraignment on felony larceny charges, was reportedly wearing the same black and white checkered top described by a witness at Our Lady of Perpetual Help when he was observed on the video entering the Sacred Heart church and removing the donation box from the wall. He reportedly exited the church and left in a white, full-size pickup truck.

Mills said another incident, now believed to be related, was reported on Nov. 29. Police were alerted to a building alarm at the Our Lady of Grace Church on Ryan, south of 11 Mile Road, at 10:18 p.m. and arrived to find a smashed pane on the front glass door.

According to a police report, a janitor told officers he discovered the broken glass door pane “large enough for a man to enter through.” Responding officers checked the inside of the building but church staff members determined that nothing was taken or tampered with.

Anyone with information about the incidents can reach Warren detectives at (586) 574-4810.