• Police investigating break-ins at 9 local churches

    By: Ken Lemon

    Updated:

    CLEVELAND COUNTY, N.C. - Police are investigating break-ins at nine local churches. One Cleveland County church was broken into twice.

    Churches are often empty when there is no service. Many, like Fairview AME Zion, sit well off of the main road.

    The pastor believes that's why his church was hit twice this week. The Rev. Franklin Kelly said an amplifier was stolen Tuesday night by a thief who crawled through a basement window of the church.

    The thief also stole a small safe with the deed and information about church members dating back to the turn of the century.

     When the pastor and trustees came to replace the window Friday morning, they discovered someone had come back and ripped out the air conditioner unit, looking for copper.

    "Air conditioner parts was laying all over the ground," said Tommy Dawkins, chairman of the Board of Trustees.

    Investigators said in the past few weeks thieves have broken into nine churches in southern Cleveland County.

    Kelly is wondering why anyone would harm a church, let alone hit his church twice in a week.

    "It's terrible for them to come and targeting a church like this. That shows you they don't have no conscience for the Lord at all," Kelly said.

    He said his church insurance, but a high deductible because the congregation is small.

    "It really crippled the church here," Kelly said.

    Repairs are underway to discourage burglars in the future.

    Kelly said he will ask his congregation Sunday to pray for the church. Then he will ask churchgoers to report people they see on church grounds after hours who look like they don't belong.

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