ELLABELL, GA (WTOC) - Investigators say they have made several arrests in connection to a break-in and vandalism at a small, rural church in Ellabell.
The Bulloch County Sheriff's Office says five juveniles, ages 12-15, were arrested and charged with burglary, criminal attempt to commit arson, vandalism to a place of worship, and criminal damage to property.
The Sheriff's Office says the juveniles are responsible for thousands of dollars in damage at Eldora Baptist Mission Church on Eldora Cemetery Road. The vandals broke windows, kicked in several doors in more than one building, took fire extinguishers off the wall and sprayed them all over the carpet and chairs and even down the playground slide. In some spots, they smeared food on the floor and walls. Outside, they dumped oil into the gas tank of the church's riding mower.
Investigators say this crime not only touches church members but also people who seek help and guidance there. They also say this was more than a harmless prank.
"A prank is something that might be funny," said Investigator Pre Cone, Bulloch County Sheriff's Office. "Damaging a house of worship - people that seriously and they feel like if someone does that, they need to be brought to justice."
The pastor says the congregation remains thankful to the sheriff's office and all who came to their aid. He says they can't hold any grudges toward the teens.
"Frustrated? No. Disappointed? Yes. The hope is you can share the message and the love of Christ and lead people in the right direction," said Pastor Howard.
This incident remains under investigation. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Bulloch County Sheriff's Office.