Teens charged with church burglaries

By Janice Gregorson

A safe containing cash and the offerings of four Sundays were among items taken from one church during a recent string of break-ins, according to criminal complaints filed against two boys facing a total of 20 felony charges.

Joseph Edward Zayes, 17, 4316 Valley Drive N.W., Rochester, is charged with breaking into seven churches between Sept. 28 and Oct. 3. Christopher Andrew White, 16, 4714 Valley Drive N.W., Rochester, is charged with breaking into four churches. The two boys are charged with aiding each other in the break-ins. Another adult male has been identified but not yet charged.

Overall, losses and damages have been estimated at nearly $25,000.


The complaint said calls from tipsters led police to the suspects.

Zayes allegedly told investigators he was involved in all seven burglaries. One of the break-ins was at Christ Our Rock Lutheran Church, where a safe containing important papers, cash and four Sundays' worth of offerings totaling $14,569 were taken. The thieves also took a $500 digital camera and damaged a window valued at $500.

Zayes said they took the safe to the home of one of the suspects, where they smashed it open. They kept $600 in cash, burned all of the personal checks and threw the safe over an embankment outside of town. He said they later destroyed the camera.

According to the complaint, Zayes told investigators they took a computer monitor from Calvary Free Church and significantly damaged the churches by smashing doors and windows.

Total losses and damages to Calvary Church are estimated at $995. That includes $100 in cash and damage to windows and a copy machine.

Berean Community Church reported damages of $800 to windows, a fire extinguisher, a flag staff, a chair and bookcases.

Damage to windows at Holy Cross Lutheran Church is estimated at $693.

First Church of the Nazarene estimated damages and losses of $6,243. That includes damage to windows, glass for a desk, a cabinet and items in the pastor's office, damage to a video projector and CDs from the sound booth.


The damage to Evangel United Methodist Church was estimated at $441.

No estimate was available of the damage to Church of the Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints.

Zayes is charged with seven counts of third-degree burglary and six counts of first-degree criminal damage to property. He is in Many Rivers Juvenile Detention Center and was to appear in court this afternoon.

White is charged with four counts of third-degree burglary and three counts of first degree criminal damage to property with regard to the break-ins of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, First Church of Nazarene, Evangel United Methodist and Church of the Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints. White is to appear in juvenile court Oct. 25.

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