Two-year-old church safe burglary solved

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 28, 2007

A safe reported stolen from a local church two years ago has been found still locked and containing $923 in donations, Greenville police investigator Sgt. Justin Lovvorn said.

The safe - about two-feet tall and weighing approximately 70 to 80 pounds - was stolen from the First Assembly of God in 2005.

While conducting an unrelated investigation, Lovvorn discovered the metal safe deep in the woods across the road from the church. First Assembly of God is located on N. Conecuh St.

Lovvorn was searching the woods for clues in relation to the theft of phone cables from Camellia Communication's storage lot.

&#8220I walked the trail and found some phone cable where the suspects had dropped some in the dark,” he said. &#8220At the last second I decided to walk deeper in the woods and there's an old house back there where I found the safe had been dumped in the back.”

Lovvorn said he initially thought the safe came from a more recent burglary.

&#8220We had a smaller safe that was stolen at a residence,” he said.

But he said he remembered the theft at First Assembly of God also.

&#8220I just backtracked in my mind, came back and got the file and the safe certainly looked like the one that had been reported stolen,” he said.

Lovvorn said he contacted Lane Simmons, Pastor of First Assembly of God.

Simmons came to the police station and agreed the safe was identical to the one stolen from the church offices. The safe was opened and Lovvorn's and Simmons' suspicions was confirmed. Inside was a number of church credit cards and checks for donations (now cancelled) as well as church documents and cash to fund youth programs.

The night of Feb. 26, 2005 one - but more than likely two suspects, said Lovvorn - broke out one of the church's back windows and removed the safe from the church office. Lovvorn surmised the burglars then crossed the street carrying it, went into the woods and attempted to crack the safe but were unable to do so.

Many of the items inside had also suffered water damage, said Lovvorn. The safe had been left on its back and rainwater had seeped inside through the cracks.