Charges filed after church break-in

Published 9:57 am Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Dowagiac man is in custody on suspicions of breaking into a local church early Tuesday morning.

Joshua Harrison

Joshua Harrison

Joshua Harrison, 30, was charged with safe breaking, breaking and entering, possession of burglar tools, malicious destruction of property and illegal entry during his arraignment hearing in Cass County Circuit Court Wednesday afternoon. He is currently being held on $20,000 bond.

According to police, officers with the Dowagiac department were dispatched to the Holy Maternity of Mary Church, located on North Front Street, at 6:20 a.m. on Tuesday, after receiving a call from an employee who reported that the side entrance door of the church’s parish office was hanging off its hinges, with its window shattered, when she arrived that morning.

While searching the residence, police discovered the suspect resting on one of the office’s couches, taking him into custody.

Authorities also discovered that the safe located inside the parish office was heavily damaged, which they suspect was caused by Harrison in an unsuccessful attempt to gain entry into. There was also damage done to some of the office’s furniture.

Employees with the church also reported that a laptop was missing, but authorities have not determined whether or not its disappearance is related to the break-in, said Director of Public Safety Steven Grinnewald.

Harrison appeared to have been drinking at the time of his arrest, the police chief said. He was not a member of the church’s congregation, according to police and church employees.

Police later searched two residences connected to the case, discovering meth and marijuana paraphernalia.

The church’s staff is still in the process of determining the amount of damage the break-in has cost them, said Parish Manager Patti Mather. The safe, which is over a century old, appears to have suffered irreparable damage, she said.

“We are upset that this would happen,” Mather said “It’s sad. It feels like there’s no respect for the church at all.”

While the church will consider beefing up its security, Pastor Kevin Covert said they won’t be turning the institution into a “police state” in response to the incident.

“I don’t want an incident like this to make us lose our sense of hospitality,” Covert said.

Harrison’s next court hearing date is set for June 25.