The seven, all between the ages of 16 and 21, allegedly smashedwindows and furniture, and carved a racial slur into the pulpit atthe 117-year-old Free Liberty United Christian Church, authoritiessaid.
"The more I see it, the worse I feel about it," said Betty Ellerbe whose family had been at the church for generations. "I don't understand why anyone would do this to a church."
Charges were filed against: Carson Shane Jones II, 21, of Addor;Mark Allen Matthews, 16, of Addor; Justin Lynn Samples, 17, ofLakeview; Nathaniel Clayton Lewis, 16, of Carthage; Joshua DavidKipfmiller, 17, of West End; Amber Lynn Dillon, 19, of SouthernPines; and Wayne Francis Sands Jr., 18, of Pinehurst.
All were charged with breaking and entering, while all but Lewiswere charged with damage to property, sheriff's Detective KipDennis said.
Authorities said the vandals ripped off the cover of a Bibledonated to the church in 1931, and smashed framed prints of theLast Supper and other religious images.
Damage to the one-room building was estimated at $5,000, butmembers said the church's meager bank account will not cover repairs.
"They should make them come down here and build it back to how they found it when they came in," said church member Veda Ellerbe.
Church members want to rebuild, but they said they do not know if that will be possible. Despite the racial slurs, investigators say the crime does not fit the state's definition of a hate crime.
If you would like to make a donation to the church, you can send it to:
Free Liberty United Church of Christ P.O. Box 1601 Pinebluff, N.C. 28315
Copyright 2023 by WRAL.com and the Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.