Vandals hit church, van Windows broken repeatedly on Villa Nova, Gowall

Published 11:42 am Thursday, July 21, 2011

Repeated acts of vandalism that could result in felony malicious mischief charges have hit an Oak Ridge Road-area church along with property on nearby Gowall Road, Sheriff Martin Pace said Wednesday.

Windows at Mount Olive Baptist Church, 210 Villa Nova Road, were found broken July 12, Sunday and again Tuesday, said the Rev. Richard Hopkins, pastor.

“Nothing has been missing,” said Hopkins. “They don’t go inside, but there are tracks from a 4-wheeler in the parking lot and around the side.”

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On July 12, members arrived for Bible study to find a back kitchen window broken. Pace said Detective Sam Winchester found a 3- to 4-inch section of electrical conduit pipe amid broken glass on a table near the window.

Sunday, five windows along one side of the church were broken, Hopkins said, apparently from a crowbar or similar object since nothing was found inside except broken glass.

The current Mount Olive Church was built about three years ago, and stands alongside one the congregation used for 125 years, Hopkins said.

Window breakage was also reported less than a half-mile away, said Pace.

On Saturday, deputies took a report that all the windows of a Ford van parked in the 3400 block of Gowall Road were broken, and Tuesday, another report that all the windows of a vacant mobile home in the 3800 block of Gowall Road were broken, he said.

“We have every reason to believe the incidents are related, and we will pursue this as a criminal act,” said the sheriff. “We take property damage very seriously, especially when it’s to a house of worship.”

Pace said investigators are following leads, but need help from the public.

“We are hoping someone has seen something and will contact us or Crime Stoppers,” he said. “We don’t need your identity, just the information.”

The sheriff’s office can be reached at 601-636-1761, and Crime Stoppers at 888-827-4637 or 601-355-8477.