Local News

Arrest made in vandalism of Chatham County church

Posted June 24, 2010 4:51 p.m. EDT
Updated June 24, 2010 5:01 p.m. EDT

— Chatham County deputies have made an arrest in the vandalism of a Chapel Hill church on June 4. 

Satanic and obscene messages were sprayed on the walls at the Lighthouse Baptist Church, at 12063 U.S. Highway 15/501. Hymn books were destroyed and windows were broken during the overnight break-in. Two American flags were also stolen.

Joseph Marshall Polinger, 19, of 28-A Woodbridge Drive in Chapel Hill, turned himself in to authorities after returning some of the stolen property on Wednesday afternoon, Chatham County deputies said.

Authorities said Polinger admitted to the crime and implicated an accomplice, who is being sought. His name was not released.

Polinger is charged with felonious breaking and entering a place of worship, felonious larceny, felonious possession of stolen goods and injury to real property. He was released on a $25,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in Chatham County District Court in Pittsboro on July 26.

Polinger’s residence is located in a neighborhood just behind the church. It is still unclear what motivated the two men to commit the crime.

Deputies said they have recovered a large wooden cross that hung above the pulpit and electronic equipment that was stolen during the break-in.

Investigators with the Chatham County Sheriff's Office said the vandalism met the criteria for a hate crime.

Mark Hall, pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Church, said earlier the church's insurance company told him it will cover all the damages, and gifts to the church have already met the deductible.