Authorities investigating more vandalism at two North Lake Tahoe churches | SierraSun.com

Authorities investigating more vandalism at two North Lake Tahoe churches

One of the windows at St. Francis of Assisi church in Incline Village that was smashed overnight Saturday.
Michelle Geary / North Lake Tahoe Bonanza |

COMMUNITY PRAYER

A prayer gathering will take place at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 31, at Cornerstone Community Church at 300 Country Club Drive in Incline Village.

Ogden and the Rev. Brett Franklin, pastor at Cornerstone, agreed Sunday to establish the gathering so the community can come together and pray for the suspect or suspects responsible for recent church vandalisms, Ogden said.

All churches are residents are welcome to attend.

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Authorities are investigating a pair of church vandalism incidents that occurred overnight Saturday, the latest in a trend of destructive crimes at a North Lake Tahoe community’s places of worship.

The St. Francis of Assisi Catholic church at 701 Mt. Rose Highway and The Village Church, a Presbyterian church at 736 McCourry Blvd., both in Incline Village, sustained considerable damage, including broken windows and equipment, and severed ropes and Christmas lights, Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jeff Clark said Sunday.

“Last night’s incidents were more for destruction of property, and we are collecting evidence,” he said. “We are certainly looking at felony crimes here.”

Church officials discovered the damage Sunday morning.

Incline Village resident Donna Caravelli, a parishioner at St. Francis, said the parish is “sickened and shocked” at the vandalism there, which includes broken stained glass windows, a smashed-in front door, and “a mess was made inside with some sort of dust.”

“We prayed for whoever did this and hope their anger, hate and maliciousness will be replaced with love,” she said. “We forgive them, as they must be truly troubled souls to do such a hateful thing. We will continue to do God’s work, continue to help the poor and be a refuge for the troubled and those seeking God’s grace.”

The Rev. Jeff Ogden, pastor at The Village Church, said he and his congregation will be “praying for the person who’s done this.”

“It’s a violation of one of the most intimate personal kinds of things you can experience, your worship, and to come to church this morning and see this was very upsetting,” he said. “There’s no animosity — just hurt and frustration that we’ve experienced the damage that was done here.”

Ogden estimated that about $3,100 in damage had been done at The Village Church, including heavy damage to the its outdoor wooden cross, which bears deep, saw-like cuts, as if suspects were trying to cut it down.

He said it would cost about $3,000 to replace. As of Sunday, the church was deliberating whether to leave the cross as is, beautify it somehow or replace.

He also shared words of hope for fellow churchgoers at St. Francis.

“They have such a beautiful sanctuary and to think that someone would come in and wreck what that congregation has worked so hard and spent so much money, time and love to put together, it’s heartbreaking, and it’s frustrating because it’s not going to do anything,” Ogden said. “All it does is wreck the life of whoever is doing this, and it’s upsetting people and hurting people … and it’s not going to stop us from being able to worship.

“So ultimately, it is pointless what they are doing.”

Unlike recent crimes at Incline Village churches, authorities found no anti-Christian graffiti displayed Sunday morning.

St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church at 341 Village Blvd. was vandalized overnight on Aug. 7, when a suspect or suspects painted graffiti on the church building and a car that was parked on church property.

Letters mounted to the front of the church were also reportedly stolen.

A second church also was vandalized that same night with a small amount of graffiti, officials said.

Due to the nature of those crimes involving places of worship, WCSO is working with the FBI, which is also investigating a series of vandalisms that occurred on Easter Sunday in Incline Village.

In that incident, the town’s five churches were also tagged with anti-Christianity messages.

Patrols of the town’s churches have increased this month, said Clark, adding that deputies had actually been on foot overnight Saturday at St. Francis and The Village Church, but the vandalism occurred after they left.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the WCSO Incline Village Substation at 775-832-4107; or Secret Witness at 775-322-4900.

A $500 reward through Secret Witness is offered for information leading the arrest and conviction of suspects.

Sierra Sun Reporter Margaret Moran contributed to this report.