For the first time, a tip received by Crime Stoppers has led to successful completion of an investigation, according to the Marshall County Sheriff's Department.
Officially named Citizens of Marshall County Crime Stoppers, the non-profit group's hotline was opened in mid November 2008 by Norman Dalton when he was captain of the detectives.
The burglary of the Bethbirei Presbyterian Church and theft of its pulpit Bible on Sunday, Feb. 6, were solved with information from a Tribune reader who called Crime Stoppers at 359-4867, Deputy Lori Haynes said during a press conference on Thursday.
Haynes is assigned to be the liaison between the department and Crime Stoppers board.
"I believe the board has decided to pay $200," Sheriff Dalton said Monday of a panel of volunteers who are not law enforcement officers. "The board members were e-mailed and were asked questions" about what to do for the caller.
That amount is consistent with a list of crimes and recommended rewards issued by Crime Stoppers USA.
The crimes at Bethbirei are not the first time a reward has been paid, but it is the first time the information has led to the solution of a crime.
Within a month of the creation of the hot line, a caller was paid $50 in reward money and provided a $100 gift certificate to a local store because the call was the first that resulted in an arrest.
"Money has been paid out, but mostly it's for the most wanted people," the sheriff explained. "We've had other information but it didn't pan out. It wasn't enough to solve the crimes."
Crime Stoppers has been used to catch people who were sought by the department, the so-called most wanted suspects, Dalton said.
Names and photos of 10-11 people have been publicized and they have been caught with help from the crime stoppers program, he said.
During the announcement at the press conference on Thursday, Detective Jimmy Oliver provided additional insights into the burglary and theft at the Bethbirei Presbyterian Church.
"It was one of those nights," Oliver began, as he told of the four juveniles. "They were bored and driving around."
The 17-year-old boy was driving someone else's car. The girl with the three boys is 14. The other two boys are 16. None of them are related to each other.
"Their plan was to get together and go watch the Super Bowl" somewhere, Oliver said. "They entered the church at about 7 p.m."
The girl has been in trouble before, the detective said. One of the boys has never been in trouble. Another was caught with tobacco products.
"They're regular, everyday kids; saying 'Yes, sir,' and 'No, sir,'" Oliver said.
But once they had the Bible, they realized they had a problem and ultimately, they decided to get rid of it. It was burned and tossed into a trash dumpster at Ivey's Antiques on West Commerce Street, but trash was hauled away before it could be recovered.
"I think it was weighing on their conscience," Oliver concluded. "The first boy I talked to said, 'I've been wanting to tell.'"
The parents' reaction was "embarrassment," he said.
The parents were served with papers stemming from petitions to the Juvenile Court asking that they be declared delinquent because the acts that were taken would be crimes if committed by an adult.