ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) - The associate pastor at one Limestone County church says it was heart-breaking. He arrived early for services Sunday morning and discovered their church had been broken into. As it turns out, three Limestone County churches were burglarized over the weekend and burglars tried unsuccessfully to get into a fourth. They're all on Highway 31 and within just a few miles of each other. Sheriff Mike Blakely says it was a cowardly crime and he wants the thieves off the street.
It's a scene deputies say was repeated three times across Limestone County Sunday morning. Worshippers arrive for church services only to learn thieves had been there first.
"When I came in and opened the doors to get ready for Sunday school and that's when I seen the door was open and I stopped and started looking and that's when I found all the mess in the back area," says Gerald Plys, the Associate Pastor at Jacob's Well Missionary Baptist Church.
Plys says his church was lucky. The place was ransacked but nothing was stolen. In fact, musical instruments were left untouched. But the thieves weren't finished. Deputies day they also hit the Oakland United Methodist Church just two miles away where cookies and bottled water were taken. And further up the highway, deputies say they hit the Crossroads Church where several guitars and a weed-eater were taken.
"We did get some good evidence at a couple of the churches that may be very helpful if we're able to develop suspects," Sheriff Mike Blakely told WHNT News 19. He added, "I think there ought to be someone, these people, especially trying to get rid of the guitars or the weed-eater."
Meanwhile Plys says he hopes the Lord will touch the hearts of those responsible for the crimes, and bring them back to the church, when the doors are open. "No, I'm not angry, no. I just pray for them, that we're here, because, you know, they need prayer. That's what they need, and they need to seek the lord," Plys tells us.
Sheriff Blakely says efforts were made to break into a fourth church, but he says the thieves never got inside. Blakely says it's pretty clear all of the burglaries were committed by the same person.
If you have any information about these church burglaries, you're urged to contact the Limestone County Sheriff's Office, in Athens, at 256-232-0111.