Burglars steal Christmas items from country churchA tree filled with ornaments, a gold cross and statues of Jesus, Mary and Joseph were some of the Christmas things taken in a burglary of a country church southeast of Warren, Minn., Friday. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office said Monday it was investigating the burglary, which it said happened Friday morning and involved “a large amount of property.”
By: By Stephen J. Lee, Forum Communications, The Jamestown Sun
A tree filled with ornaments, a gold cross and statues of Jesus, Mary and Joseph were some of the Christmas things taken in a burglary of a country church southeast of Warren, Minn., Friday.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office said Monday it was investigating the burglary, which it said happened Friday morning and involved “a large amount of property.”
It was not a difficult break-in. Melo Lutheran’s doors aren’t locked, on account of strangers sometimes needing a warm refuge on a cold night.
“It’s saved people’s lives before,” said lifelong member Gary Engstrom of the open door policy. “As long as I can remember, it’s never been locked.”
Once or twice, there has been some vandalism done to it over the years, but nothing to make them start locking the doors, he said.
The church has been between Warren and Thief River Falls for 125 years, said Engstrom, who has been a member for more than half that time.
On Friday, a traffic stop by a deputy from nearby Pennington County led to the burglary investigation, said Engstrom, a church board member who talked to a deputy Saturday at the church.
“The deputy noticed a cross in the back seat,” he said.
That was the gold-plated cross, 30 inches tall, from the church’s altar, Engstrom said. “It’s been there as long as I can remember.”
The people in the vehicle admitted getting the stuff from nearby Melo Lutheran, a deputy told Engstrom.
Polk County deputies are investigating the burglary, assisted by Pennington County.
Suspects in the case are Myron Sunram and Paige Lofberg, according to WDAZ TV.
Both are in the Pennington County jail, according to a jail official; Sunram on a charge of obstructing the legal process and Lofberg, 18, on drug charges, including possession of methamphetamine.
Sunram, 35, has a long list of crimes in Pennington County and nearby counties dating to at least 1995, including felony assault and burglary convictions as well as drug-related charges, according to state court records available online. He is on probation from a 2011 Polk County drug crime conviction until next year.
Little information was released by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Monday.
No damage was done to the church other than the things stolen, Engstrom said. But the crime left big holes.
“They took the tree, all decorated for Christmas,” he said. “It was about seven feet tall.”
One of the church’s members has volunteered to replace the tree.
“I imagine there will be people in the congregation who will bring ornaments,” he said.
An old Bible in a wooden box was taken off the altar, as were nativity statues of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, he said. An Advent wreath, a metal ring with a candle for each of the four Sundays leading to Christmas, valued at nearly $500, was taken.
And the cross, which with its history has a value beyond dollars to the congregation.
The congregation, which has 25 to 30 people attending each Sunday, is in a parish with Our Savior’s Lutheran in Warren, Engstrom said.
Already, some of the stolen items have been returned, he said.
And the good news is that the burglars did not damage to the church, including its stained glass windows, Engstrom said.
“That would have been devastating.”