THE CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION REPORT INDEX
The Christian Persecution Report Index is a compilation of media-reported incidents against Christians and crimes against churches in the USA
Compiled for the Month of May 2021
by Andrea Hillman
5/19—Mack Charles Andrews, Jr., 61, former pastor of United Pentecostal Church in Thomasville, was released from prison after serving only five years of a 15-year sentence. Andrews was incarcerated after pleading guilty as part of a plea deal for committing numerous sexual assaults over several years against many young girls.
5/8, Rogers—Kevin Madden, 31, former pastor of Discover Church, was charged with two counts sexual indecency with a child and one count of engaging a child in sexually explicit conduct for use in visual or print media.
5/22, Caraway—Two juveniles were charged in connection to a fire at Caraway United Methodist Church. The church sustained severe damage in the blaze.
5/4, Redwood City—Maria Elana Zurita, 58, was arrested in connection with the April 28th arson at Rise City Church.
5/5, San Gabriel—A suspect, John David Corey, 57, has been charged with the arson that heavily damaged a 249-year-old church building. The historic San Gabriel Mission suffered the damage on July 11, 2020.
5/6, Jurupa Valley—Sacred Heart Catholic Church was vandalized. Three 100-year-old stained glass windows were smashed and the head was broken off a statue by a man captured on camera.
5/10, Redwood City—Oscar Banegas, 41, is facing several charges in connection with theft at several Christian schools and churches in the area.
5/13, Concord—Investigators have ruled a fire that broke out at Christ Community Church of the Nazarene on May 13th an act of arson. A second fire broke out of May 17th. Jesse Marron, 47, was arrested for arson and violation of civil rights causing property damage in connection with the incidents on May 17th.
5/17, Pomona—Luis Flores, 34, is arrested after allegedly attempting to steal a catalytic converter from a church van. Yesenia Huizarreyna, 23, was also arrested in a nearby vehicle.
5/17, Patterson—An unnamed man has been taken into custody for breaking and entering and causing damage to a local (also unnamed) church that has been repeatedly targeted by the local homeless population.
5/26, Anderson—Police are asking for help to locate a man who is being sought in the felonious vandalism of a local church. His image was clearly captured on surveillance.
5/26, Oakland—Bishop Michael Barber was allegedly robbed of money and his episcopal ring after a young man pointed a gun at his face. The bishop was walking around the Cathedral of Christ the Light when he states he was approached by the gunman. Now, other parishioners are telling him of incidents they have dealt with, such as a car window being smashed while the parishioner was in church.
Week of 17th, Colorado Springs—Colorado Springs Fellowship Church have filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Colorado Springs Police Department.
5/23, Sleepy Hollow—Historic grave markers at the Old Dutch Church Cemetery, some dating back to the Revolutionary War, were damaged this weekend, likely by a chemical. It is not known if the chemical may cause further damage to the headstones or what the repair expenses might cost. This is the cemetery of the famous chase scene in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”
5/4, Tallahassee—Freedom Church is vandalized with red spray paint. Two years ago this church suffered an arson attack.
5/4, Tallahassee—St. Peter’s Anglican Cathedral was vandalized with red spray paint.
5/4, Tallahassee—Good Shepherd Catholic Church was vandalized with red spray paint.
5/4, Tallahassee—Thomas Road Baptist Church was vandalized with red spray paint.
5/16, St. Johns County—Jasabion Ivory and Cornelius Boston are facing burglary, as well as loitering and prowling charges following an incident at New Beginnings Church.
5/26, Orlando—Six Romanian citizens residing in Orlando are facing several charges, including racketeering, in connection with stealing donations totaling over $740,000 from church mailboxes all around the country.
5/10, Sylvania—Two suspects, Jessica Ann Green, 34, and Mark Travis Sanderson, 46, will face several charges after stolen church items were recovered by local law enforcement officials.
5/21, Bainbridge—Law enforcement officials responded to a burglary in progress at Smith Grove Missionary Baptist Church.
5/20, Maui—An attempted burglary was reported at the Kahului Union Church.
5/16-17, Galesburg—Colonial Baptist Church reported eight security cameras were stolen from a church office. The church had purchased the cameras after recently suffering a burglary.
5/25, Odin—54-year-old, Joseph Busscher, was charged with arson to a place of worship in connection with the 2018 arson of Bethel Baptist Church. He was also charged with criminal damage to property and reckless discharge of a firearm for shooting at the church.
5/24, Viola—St. John’s Catholic Church in Mercer County was burned in a fire. A 12-year-old has been charged with arson in connection to the fire.
5/10, Muncie—Austen Geoffrey Leigh Wable, 22, was taken into custody at Halteman Baptist Church after allegedly admitting to drinking alcohol on the premises before trying to break into the church storage shed.
5/18, Terre Haute—At least two churches, including Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church, have been victimized with threatening notes and/or graffiti. A suspect was caught on camera, but could not be identified.
5/19, Goshen—Way Point Community Church reported the theft of a catalytic converter from a church vehicle that took place between May 5 and May 19.
5/26, Elkhart County—River of Life Fellowship reported a catalytic converter was stolen from the church.
5/10, Davenport—Markell Williams, 28, faces charges after police found him walking around Vineyard Church with gloves and a knife. A screen was found damaged and a window broken.
5/12, Hull—Graffiti was spray-painted onto the American Reform Church.
5/2, Wayne County—Louis J. Decker, 33, was allegedly found standing and yelling inside Canada Creek Baptist Church after deputies responded to a burglary at the location. After a struggle, he was charged with burglary, criminal mischief, and resisting arrest, among several other charges.
5/14, Chickasaw—Christ the King Church suffered an attack by vandals who left destruction of the church totaling many thousands of dollars.
5/25, Frankfort—Graefenburg Christian Church reported a catalytic converter theft.
5/21, Bossier City—The Louisiana Attorney General’s Office announced a priest at Christ the King Church, Seby Chemmampallil, 36, is out of jail after being charged with possession of pornography involving juveniles under the age of 13, distribution of pornography involving juveniles under the age of 13, and sexual abuse of animals. The Diocese of Shreveport has sent a letter in regard to his immediate dismissal and cooperation with authorities.
5/19, Sunderland—A burglary was reported at All Saints Episcopal Church. Damages are estimated to be $500.
5/2-3, Waltham—A statue of Christ was desecrated by decapitated at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church.
5/24, Hampden—District Attorney Anthony Gulluni’s office named defrocked priest, Richard R. Lavigne, as the murderer of 13-year-old, altar boy, Daniel Croteau. The murder took place almost 50 years ago. Lavigne died in a hospital on Friday, May 21, just as officials were obtaining a warrant for his arrest.
5/3, Westland—On Monday night, the surveillance cameras of One Mission Church captured video of an arson suspect trying to start a fire at a door with what appears to be an accelerant. The church suffered some damage, but was not destroyed.
5/2, Rochester—Patricia Radich, 62, a volunteer church treasurer at Trinity Lutheran Church, admitted stealing more than $183,000 over a four-year period to finance her gambling addiction. However, the results of an audit revealed Radich had written checks to herself and made electronic withdrawals totaling more than $420,000 since 2013. She is facing twelve counts of felony theft.
5/11, Southaven—Rafas Ligmaw, 36, is arrested within 24 hours of the burglary and arson of Southpoint Church that occurred on May 10th.
5/14, Jackson—Pastor and Elder Ronnie Upshaw was held up at gunpoint in a parking lot while acting as security during a tent revival service at the Apostolic Temple Church of God The Bibleway.
5/25, Keslo—St. Andrews Scottish Episcopal Church suffered a break-in and terrible vandalism. Blood was found at the scene and is being analyzed.
5/5, Willow Springs—Dwayne Prediger, 34, confessed to the theft of catalytic converters stolen on two separate occasions from church vans belonging to First General Baptist.
5/9-10, Helena—Reverend Scott Wipperman of First Presbyterian church reports his church suffered a break-in. Nothing was stolen, but extensive damage was caused.
5/17, Helena—The Cathedral of St. Helena was vandalized with multicolored, spray-painted anarchy symbols, stars, “x” symbols, pornographic images, “kill the cops” and “God is dead” messages. Durbin Tabb, 21, was arrested on May 19 in connection with the crime. A second suspect in the incident, Lane Chapman, 19, was charged with desecration of a place of worship and felony criminal mischief or malicious intimidation or harassment on 5/26.
5/8, Portsmouth—A trespasser is reported to have left a threat at a local church.
5/1, Gloucester Township—Two people were caught on surveillance as they took part in the theft of a catalytic converter from a church van belonging to Bethel Christian Center.
5/19, Hillsborough—Reverend Douglas J. Haefner, 68, confessed to taking more than $516,000 from St. Matthias Parish in Somerset. He is scheduled to be sentenced August 4.
5/6, Farmington—Melford Russell, 49, is accused of assaulting an employee of the Salvation Army Thrift Store after allegedly lunging at the woman with a knife.
5/5, Brooklyn—The statue of a murdered Catholic priest is defaced with garbage in McCarren Park.
5/13, Brooklyn—The NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force are investigating a church vandalism that occurred at Saint Athanasius Church. A cross with a statue of Jesus was knocked down and damaged, and their American flag was burned. The crime was caught on surveillance cameras.
5/17, Windsor Terrace—A statue of baby Jesus in the arms of His mother, Mary, was found decapitated at the Brooklyn Diocese administrative offices. The NYPD has been asked to increase patrols around Catholic churches given the recent increase in hate crime activity.
5/25, Rochester— A 47-year-old woman was injured during an evening bible study class at Iglesia Ebenezer when the church was struck by several bullets. There were 80 members in the church at the time, including many children. The woman was treated and released. There is damage to the church.
5/25, Jamestown—Adam Morrison, 33, and Mackenzie Kepler, 19, allegedly broke into a church thrift store, trashed the store and defecated on the walls and floor.
5/5, Burke County—Tristan Douglas Coffey, 22, is accused of exposing himself to two female childcare workers at the Morganton First Church of God.
5/9, Chapel Hill—vandalism, including a church cross being knocked down, took place at University United Methodist Church of Chapel Hill.
5/10-11, Leicester—The pastor of Community Chapel Missionary Baptist arrived at church on Wednesday, May 12 to discover someone had fired at the front door with what may be a shotgun. The damage was not present during church services on Sunday.
5/19, Winston-Salem—It is reported that over the past several months, several churches in the area, including Freedom Baptist Church, have suffered repeated vandalisms and/or theft.
5/21, Thomasville—Betty Fowler Collins, 79, was arrested for allegedly embezzling over $150,000 over more than a ten-year period from Liberty Baptist Church.
5/4, Fargo—The police identified a person of interest in connection with the black-spray-paint vandalism of the Jesus statue located at St. Mary’s Cathedral. The statue has been restored.
5/4, Cleveland—Six people were charged with several crimes after allegedly seeking to fraudulently obtain approximately $9,000,000 in COVID-19 relief funds for the “faith-based organization” or “church” each allegedly was said to operate.
5/7, Delaware—Justin L. Eastman, 36, was sentenced to life for the murder of 53-year-old Donna Harris, a woman he befriended at a church. Eastman planned to rob Harris, according to texts he sent to his girlfriend. Harris was found bludgeoned to death in a field in 2019.
5/15, Avon Lake—A glass window and two screen windows suffered damage by vandals.
5/19, Lawton—A shed lock was destroyed and lawn equipment was stolen from Lawton’s Abundant Life Christian Church.
5/11, Sweet Home—A fire that severely damaged Elm Street Baptist Church on May 11th was ruled an arson by investigators. This church was burglarized only a couple of weeks prior and damaged by flooding when the burglar(s) allegedly left the faucets running.
5/13, Philadelphia—Local and federal investigators conclude the fire which destroyed St. Leo the Great Church on May 9th was due to arson. What remains of the church is being dismantled.
5/14, Wilkes-Barre—Denise Ann Decker, 63, former secretary of Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Duryea, was sentenced after pleading guilty to stealing nearly $100,000 from the church over a five year span.
5/25, Loganton—Camp Blessing Tabernacle Church in Greene Township suffered an act of arson. A wooden bench and a box of church hymnals suffered significant damage in the fire.
5/8-9, Narragansett—A marble statue of Jesus, located at the St. Thomas More Catholic Church, was damaged when the fingers were broken off the right hand.
5/23, Shelbyville—Security cameras capture a man on a bicycle stealing a check from a church drop box. The box was damaged.
5/24, Murfreesboro—A trial date has been set for Florida Pastor David Rowan. Rowan is accused of molesting two teenage girls during a 2014 during a stay in Tennessee, where he was hired to speak at a church in Rutherford County.
5/25, Dyersburg—Dakin Rosenthal, 31, was charged with the burglary of the First United Methodist Church that occurred on May 22. The crime was caught on surveillance cameras.
5/3, Wichita Falls—Police are in search of unknown suspects who stole copper wiring from Calvary Assembly of God Church.
5/9, San Antonio—San Antonio Police are looking for a woman who they believe has been involved in multiple cases of theft throughout San Antonio. The victim on 5/9 was approached by the female who allegedly asked the victim if she would like to donate to the church by purchasing religious candles. The victim ultimately lost $3,000 in the encounter.
5/18, Woodville—Ruben Metcalf, 62, was arrested for a parole violation in the Fellowship Church parking lot. Several catalytic converters were found next to his vehicle. Metcalf allegedly told officers he was meeting someone to sell the converters. An investigation continues.
5/18, Burnet—Three females are seen on surveillance video entering into Shady Grove Church by force and possibly leaving with items in their hands.
5/20, Independence Heights—At least three churches report suffering multiple break-ins and vandalism events over the past couple of months, with some suffering more than one attack. The culprit of a crime that took place at Green Chapel AME Church was caught on camera, and it is believed he may be linked to several crimes against churches in the vicinity. The Anointed Christian Tabernacle of Saints IME Church across the street suffered damage. Hunter Memorial Church has suffered crude graffiti.
5/21, Burlington—Benjamin Haskell, 35, previously sentenced to nine years for his part in the November 2008 arson of the Macedonia Church of God in Christ in Springfield, MA, faced a U.S. District Court judge after failing to make several court-ordered restitution payments.
5/5, Pearisburg—Justin Elliot Graves, 31, a former youth leader at Riverview Baptist Church in Ripplemead, was charged with five counts of soliciting a child to be in a pornographic image and five counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
5/25, Richmond—A U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals panel of judges adjourned without a decision in the appeal case of Dylann Roof. Roof was sentenced to death after murdering nine members of the Emanuel AME church, June 17, 2015. The church was founded in 1817 in Charleston, SC.
5/?, Leavenworth—A theft and vandalism was reported at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church.
5/21, Harts—William Cody Lusher, 29, was allegedly identified as the person who set fire to Walking by Faith Baptist Church. Lusher has been charged with arson.
5/25, Morgantown—William Page, 59, Pastor at the Church of God was arrested after a cell phone, allegedly belonging to the pastor, was found secretly taking video of two males using the men’s restroom. Page has been charged with misdemeanor invasion of privacy.
5/5, Menasha—A man was arrested following a burglary and damage to Saint Thomas Church. The church has been robbed before.
5/11, Wautoma—Nathan Kozlowski, 26, was sentenced to three years, four months in prison after pleading guilty to the burglary and criminal damage to religious property that took place at Waushara Community Church in Marion, where hateful slurs of a religious nature were spray-painted on the walls and the church was ransacked.
Andrea Hillman is a contributing writer and journalist for Blue Ridge Christian News and creator and news aggregator for The Christian Persecution Report. She enjoys a wide variety of artistic endeavors, world travel, and has recently discovered she has a green thumb. You can read more of her work here. Please reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org, at The Christian Persecution Report page on Facebook, or on LinkedIn.