TUPELO • Three men have been arrested in connection with a rash of church burglaries in Lee and Union counties.
Reid Raines has been charged by both counties with breaking into a total of seven churches. James Dykes and Justin Lee Wages have been charged by Union County with receiving stolen property.
Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson said his department has seen church burglaries on the western side of the county over the last three weeks. Union County Sheriff Jimmy Edwards saw a rash of church burglaries on the eastern side of his county over the same time period.
The sheriffs said the case broke late last week.
“We had been talking with Lee County for the three weeks,” Edwards said. “Lee County got some information and got an arrest warrant for someone in our county.
“We helped pick that person up. That arrest led to another individual, which led to another individual.”
Raines, 21, of 645 County Road 2878, Guntown, has been charged with four counts of burglary of a commercial building in Lee County and another three counts in Union County. His bond was set at $250,000 in Lee County and $150,000 in Union County.
But Raines will not be getting out any time soon. He was on probation for three church burglary convictions from a few years ago. Raines was also out on bond for two recent felony charges in Union County.
Not only could his previous bonds be revoked, the probation violation could send him to prison to serve out any prior suspended sentences.
Dykes, 36, no address given, is charged with receiving stolen property and possession of methamphetamine. Wages, 36, of 1286 County Road 172, Guntown, was charged with receiving stolen property.
Raines is accused of breaking into mostly rural churches, ransacking the buildings and stealing electronic equipment, instruments and cash.
“He did thousands of dollars in damage to the churches once he got inside,” Edwards said. “He kicked in the pastors’ doors and kicked in other doors looking for things. He also knocked out windows. He caused more in damages than the value of the items he stole.”
Johnson said that many of the items, such as amplifiers and other sound equipment, were severely damaged during the theft. The damage in some cases lowered the value of the items to almost nothing.
Because the churches are rural and not staffed every day, the burglar could have been gone for days by the time the church realized a crime had occurred. Some had security systems, which Raines is accused of stealing.
“Churches like this need to have someone checking on the buildings every day,” Johnson said.