FBI continues probe into Lake Tahoe church crimes | SierraSun.com

FBI continues probe into Lake Tahoe church crimes

The Virgin Mary statue at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Kings Beach was desecrated in February.

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — It's been nearly four months since vandals severed the head and hands of a granite Virgin Mary statue in Kings Beach, the latest in a string of church vandalism crimes throughout North Lake Tahoe.

While no new crimes have been reported since the Feb. 14 incident at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church, local law enforcement agencies continue to assist the FBI in the ongoing investigation.

"The FBI … has made this a priority, and they are working on it daily," Washoe County Sheriff's Office Lt. Jeff Clark said Wednesday. "We just did a follow-up meeting yesterday, actually, and we're talking with them and Placer County and working diligently."

Clark added that things are progressing, and "there are a few suspects," although he couldn't divulge anything further.

In an interview in mid-May, Special Agent Chris Johnson, working with the Reno branch of the FBI, also said he can't comment on investigation details.

"We are working closely with the Placer County Sheriff's Office with their substation out of Tahoe City, and (WCSO) with their substation in Incline Village," said Johnson, adding that it's important for people to remember the FBI is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the at-fault party(ies).

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In Incline Village, various churches and entities partnered last year to offer a $12,500 reward for the crimes here.

The series of incidents began on Easter Sunday in April 2015 in Incline Village when all five of the town's churches were tagged with anti-Christianity messages.

Since, similar crimes occurred last summer, most notably repeated attempts to saw down the large wooden cross outside The Village Church at 736 McCourry Blvd. in Incline.

In September, vandalisms in Kings Beach and Tahoe City involved suspects reportedly spray painting "offensive statements" on churches, prompting authorities to characterize the offenses as hate crimes.

These days, with temperatures warming, more and more people are flooding into the Tahoe Basin, and they're apt to stay out later at night.

"We all know our population triples in the summer, and a lot are tourists and vacationers, and we don't know what we're going to get," Clark said. "We call it JDLR … it's important that if you see something that just doesn't look right, say something."

Information regarding any of the above cases may be relayed to the FBI by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI.