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Updated: 5:34 p.m. Tuesday, April 3, 2012 | Posted: 11:12 a.m. Tuesday, April 3, 2012
By Kathryn Burcham
ANSON COUNTY, N.C. —
Anson County deputies charged three men in connection with a wide-ranging vandalism spree where churches were spray painted with messages of hate.
Deputies have drawn warrants for three suspects. Two of the men, Bryan Balser and Daniel Huneycutt, have been arrested.
The arrests came nearly five months after investigators said the three men targeted nearly 20 churches and businesses in Rowan, Stanly and Anson counties with acts of vandalism.
The worst case was at Cedar Hill AME Zion Church in Ansonville, where deputies said the men destroyed the sanctuary and smashed all of the nearly century-old stained-glass windows.
Investigators said the suspects also defecated on the altar, burned a cross on the church steps, and spray painted racial epithets on the church walls.
SLIDEHSOW: Churches damaged in vandalism caseCHOPPER 9: AME Zion Church vandalized
"This was the worst case of vandalism I've ever seen, and I've been around a long time," said Sheriff Tommy Allen.
Since the crime, Allen kept a shard of stained glass from the broken windows on his desk as a reminder that the case remained unsolved.
Allen said a break came on March 2, when Rowan County deputies made a traffic stop. Allen said Balser was driving the car, and inside deputies found a microphone from the Cedar Hill sanctuary.
Previously people of interest in the case, investigators said the evidence concretely tied Balser and the two other men to the crime scene.
"We interviewed these guys several months ago, and we got nothing from them at that time, but they've been suspects all along," Allen said.
Church members said they were relieved the case was finally closed, adding the church would finally be able to move on after rebuilding and repairing its sanctuary.
"We still know that it happened, but we try to put it behind us and move forward," said church steward Bruce Ingram.
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