Three people were charged Thursday for allegedly breaking into a West Salem Township church July 16 and causing so much damage that services are being held elsewhere.

Mike Emph, 18, Anthony Toth, 18, and a 16-year-old boy, all of Greenville, are charged by Greenville-West Salem Township police with burglary, theft, receiving stolen property, criminal trespass, institutional vandalism, criminal conspiracy and desecration or sale of venerated objects.

Emph and Toth were arraigned Thursday by District Judge William L. Fagley, Greenville. Toth was released after posting bond and Emph was taken to Mercer County Jail after failing to post bond. The 16-year-old boy faces a hearing in juvenile court, police said.

Police received anonymous tips about who was possibly involved with the burglary and vandalism at Living Word Christian Center and its parochial school at 21 S. Maysville Road. Emph, Toth and the boy were interviewed and they all admitted to the crime, police said.

According to the police report:

Emph, Toth and the boy were drinking beer at someone’s home the evening of July 16, then drove around and talked about going to Living Word. They parked at an empty house near the church and walked through a field.

They tried to open several doors before finding an open window. One of them climbed through the window and let the other two in through a door. Once inside, they walked around the church, school and some offices and played foosball.

They found a set of keys in a janitor’s closet and unlocked some offices. They stole two televisions, a video camera, keyboard, laptop computer, bass guitar and stereo system. They loaded all of the items into the car and took them to two different homes. Some of the stolen items have been recovered.

When the Revs. Jan and Jim Chapin, the church pastors and school administrators, arrived at the building July 17, they saw it had been broken into and extensively damaged. Two fire extinguishers had also been discharged throughout the building.

Reached by phone Thursday, Rev. Jan Chapin said no windows were left open or unlocked when she and her husband left the church July 16. She also said they don’t keep any keys around that would be easily accessible to anyone. She doesn’t think the burglars used keys to unlock the office doors because they were damaged.

“At this point we don’t even know the extent of what was stolen. We have no final damage estimate quotes,” she said, adding that no one is allowed in the building except for a restoration company.

She didn’t recognize the names of the suspected burglars but said she thinks they caused more damage than they realized. The incident has been hard on the congregants, but everyone remains optimistic.

“Our main focus hasn’t been on catching the individuals. It’s been restoring the church family and getting the building back on its feet,” she said.

The school will open as planned Aug. 28, but it may have to be held at another location temporarily. Services and other church-related events are being held at The Farm in Sugar Grove Township until further notice.

The inside of the church is still in bad condition, and ceiling tiles and carpeting have to be replaced.

Rev. Jan Chapin said she and her husband hope the charges brought against the burglars are a wake-up call for them to think about the damage they caused.

“We don’t have any ill will toward them. We hope the love of God touches them,” she said.

Police are still investigating a hate crime that happened at another West Salem church July 15 or 16 and cars that were burglarized that same weekend. Emph, Toth and the juvenile haven’t been charged in connection with those two crimes because police are treating each incident separately and said they aren’t related.

Satanic messages and drawings were spray-painted on the outside of In Spirit and In Truth Fellowship Church, 410 Kinsman Road. Someone stole items from seven unlocked cars near the two churches.

The outside of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 1 Trinity Place, Greenville, its parking lot, a sign and mailbox were spray-painted July 26 with squiggles, the word “Hi” and the phrase “I love mailboxes.” Two Greenville girls and an Oil City girl were charged with that crime.

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