Local News

Accused church vandal says he regrets actions

Posted June 25, 2010 4:17 p.m. EDT
Updated June 26, 2010 7:42 a.m. EDT

— 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.

"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.