A rash of church thefts - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

A rash of church thefts


RURAL NEW RICHLAND, Minn. (KTTC) -- A number of thefts at rural churches have authorities on alert.Bandits hit five counties in southern Minnesota last week, including Steele, Waseca, Blue Earth, Le Sueur, and Brown. Now, authorities are trying to piece together whether or not the thefts are related. Three of them  were in the communities of New Richland and Ellendale.

Wide open spaces when no one is watching, can be a recipe for disaster.

"It sits in the middle of corn fields so there are no houses really close to it," said LeSueur Lutheran's Interim Pastor, Paul Meierding.

LeSeur River, Pontoppidan, and Zion Lutheran churches are located in rural New Richland and Ellendale. Last week the churches were all broken into. Pastor Meierding said he can't believe it.

"When I saw the DVD-VCR player, I thought somebody had just borrowed it and taken it to another part of the church. Then when I saw some other things gone, I realized that somebody must have broken in here," recalled Meierding.

The thieves used a back door that had accidentally been unlocked, to get into the church. The two churches in Ellendale had their doors locked, but that didn't stop the perpetrators, instead they broke in through the front door. Electronics and money were what they seemed to be after, but Zion Lutheran Pastor Gary Rusinko, said they took unexpected items.

"Some items from our refrigerator, butter. A gallon of chocolate milk. A large quantity of butter left over from a pancake breakfast," said Rusinko.

They stole more than 16 pounds of butter, leaving Rusinko, asking why.

"I think it was maybe more of desperation of finding something after all the work of breaking in, and they took whatever they could deem valuable to them," stated Rusinko.

As disheartening as the Pastor's felt the break-ins were, now they can only hope the thieves are caught.

"It's important that they find out who did it, so that they can stop this kind of thing from happening," said Meierding.

At this time authorities say it's an open investigation.. they have no leads or suspects in custody.

In the coming weeks deputies from the five counties are expecting to get together and compare notes.  If you have any information, please call the anonymous tip line at 866-878-7964

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