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Detective: Juveniles admit theft of Bible, burning it

Friday, February 18, 2011

Four Marshall County juveniles were taken into custody Wednesday when they confessed to stealing the Bethbirei Presbyterian Church's pulpit Bible, a sheriff's detective said early Thursday afternoon.

After breaking into the 200-year-old church, three boys and a girl, age 14-17, set the goatskin Bible on fire and tossed it in a trash container near the old Fox motel on West Commerce Street, Sheriff Norman Dalton said.

"Petitions are being issued today," Dalton said Thursday of the system to bring juveniles to court.

Juveniles are not arrested. They are taken into custody as a result of a petition to the juvenile court judge asking that they be declared delinquent because the acts for which they are accused would be crimes if committed by an adult.

Burglary and theft over $500 and burning private property are the charges, Dalton said.

A March 8 court date has been set for the juveniles, Dalton said with his detective, Jimmy Oliver. The four are students at Marshall County High School, the lawmen said.

"Jimmy worked the case with Deputy Lori Haynes who is our Crime Stoppers coordinator," the sheriff said.

Dalton was a prime mover in the establishment of Crime Stoppers in Marshall County.

The juveniles broke into the church and stole the Bible "because of the legend that you couldn't take it out of the church," Dalton said.

They heard the legend "by word of mouth" and not from the Internet, the sheriff said.

The Rev. Claude McMillion, pastor of the Bethbirei Presbyterian Church, called upon news media to publicize the crime in hopes that it would help solve the case.

McMillion "was happy that it was solved," Oliver said, "and sad that the Bible was burned."

The Bible was not recovered from the dumpster, the detective said, concluding that it was taken to a transfer station and then buried in a landfill.

A call to Crime Stoppers provided the name of "somebody of interest to talk to," Oliver said.

That person "didn't have anything to do with it," Oliver continued, "but that person provided another name, so I just followed the trail."

When Oliver interviewed the first of the three boys, "He gave up the others and all of them confessed."

The juvenile petitions were being written for issuance Thursday, probably Thursday evening, he said.

"They have to be served on the parents," he said.

As for whether the juveniles might be held in juvenile detention, Oliver said, "I'd say they'd be released to their parents until the court date."

Dalton said the conclusion of the case shows that, through Crime Stoppers, the public, police and media can cooperate toward solving crime.