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Accused church vandal says he regrets actions

Posted June 25, 2010
Updated June 26, 2010

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— A Chapel Hill man accused of vandalizing a local church said Friday that he is sorry for his actions and felt bad when he realized what he did after seeing TV news reports.

"I was pretty upset about it," Joey Polinger said. "I didn't like what I saw. I didn't like the fact that I hurt a bunch of people."

Chatham County sheriff's investigators say Polinger and an unidentified accomplice painted satanic and obscene messages on the walls of Lighthouse Baptist Church on June 4, broke windows and stole hymnals.

Polinger, 19, of 28-A Woodbridge Drive, surrendered Wednesday on felony charges of breaking and entering a place of worship, larceny, possession of stolen goods and injury to real property.

He is out of jail on a $25,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in Chatham County District Court in Pittsboro on July 26.

Polinger said he had been drinking heavily the night of the crime and that he never intended to destroy the church. He has vague recollections of the night's events.

"It just kind of happened," he said. "I just want to do right by the people."

That includes stopping drinking, Polinger said, and returning a wooden cross that hung above the church's pulpit and some electronic equipment.

Accused church vandal says he regrets actions Accused church vandal says he regrets actions

"I didn't want the stuff," he said. "It doesn't belong to me. I never should have had it in the first place."

Lighthouse pastor Mark Hall called Polinger's admission and apology "an answer to prayer" and extended an invitation for him to attend service at the church.

"Christ opened himself to us," Hall said. "We can't hate."

Insurance estimates put damage and cleanup and repairs at an estimated $20,000 to $25,000, Hall said.

Donations from the church's congregation and the community have been enough to cover the church's insurance deductible, he added.

"Hopefully, he can put this behind him – I know he's got a lot of charges – and move on," Hall said of Polinger.

The crime, meanwhile, has caused concern among church members, but the congregation has grown stronger and closer, he added.

"They want to see things move forward," Hall said.

Investigators are still searching for Polinger's accomplice, and under the terms of his release, Polinger isn't allowed on church property.


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  • Mugu Jun 28, 2010

    Why is this news? The Baptists ruined the south and now they want our pity? I was tempted to put a "Viva la Argentina" banner on the Mexican consulate last night, but I refrained.

  • atom_ant Jun 25, 2010

    This "sorry" guy and his sidekick totally demolished this church. They had to be in there for HOURS to do all the damage they inflicted. They destroyed EVERYTHING. EVERY wall, light fixture, bath fixture, pew, chair, ceiling, floor, podium, EVERYTHING!!!! Then, stole anything and everything they thought they could sell. He and his sidekick are definitely "sorry" by my definition of the word. The "just happened" defense is gonna be hilarious in court...

  • atom_ant Jun 25, 2010

    He's sorry alright......as in the noun, NOT the adjective.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Jun 25, 2010

    latitude52n: "To all u posters, I hope if u ever make a mistake or do something wrong or stupid, I hope u find more compassion than u are giving."

    Were you being serious? You say that as though many of us will plan on committing a crime in the future. I don't know... maybe there are a lot of people out there who weren't brought up by a father that tore them up when they did something wrong. I was raised that there are serious consequences to our actions, no matter how small. I don't plan on committing ANY crime. And I would hope everyone posting here is living their life in this manner.

  • Adelinthe Jun 25, 2010

    That he turned himself in, voiced regret and returned some items speaks volumes, however, his actions from this time forward will indicate his commitment or uncommitment to the church.

    He should pay for all damages, and should do community service helping to repair the damages.

    Then we'll see how he feels.

    God bless.


  • DizzyDaphnee Jun 25, 2010

    This young man TURNED HIMSELF IN after feeling remorseful for his own actions. I commend him for having a strong enough concscience and encourage him to beat the drinking now while he is still healthy and young. Youth and alcohol are an explosive combination when coupled with sheer boredom. He was wrong, he saw that, he checked himself, and now he will pay the punishment that his peers deem appropriate. To all u posters, I hope if u ever make a mistake or do something wrong or stupid, I hope u find more compassion than u are giving.

  • NotFromHere Jun 25, 2010

    "why is there a distinguished difference between 'breaking and entering' and 'breaking and entering a place of worship'? is one worse than the other?" - nathanbrewer36833

    Yeah, believe it or not, some people actually look upon a place of worship as someplace sacred, and as with a cemetary, there are special laws to punish vandalism of such sacred locations.

  • trianglerelic Jun 25, 2010

    Besides a fine, I'd sentence him to do however many hours it takes to fix ever last bit of damage he did.

  • roadbrnr Jun 25, 2010

    I'm glad to hear he turned himself in. Your conscience can really work on you for doing things. Now, he will have to man up and take his medicine,but hopefully his life is changed,and more important,his heart.

  • Deacons Jun 25, 2010

    he is sorry......that he was caught