Sunday, March 16, 2003

18-year-old charged in Batavia church vandalism

Repairs could cost more than $40,000

Clermont County sheriff's officials charged an 18-year-old man late Saturday night with breaking and entering and vandalism in connection with what authorities called the worst act of vandalism in the area in more than a decade.

Investigators say Benjamin Runyan, of Batavia, is accused of breaking into the Church of God not far from his home in the Stonelick Woods apartments, ransacking the sanctuary, overturning the pulpit and destroying figurines, breaking windows and musical equipment. Police are speculating the motive was a dispute with his girlfriend.

Police say he left hot water taps running, turned up the temperature on the boiler, broke the thermostat, squirted ketchup across walls and cabinets, discharged a fire extinguisher inside the building, tossed eggs at walls and doors, ripped pictures from the walls, and spread road salt along the aisles of the sanctuary and between the pews.

The damage, estimated at more than $40,000, was discovered Tuesday morning by the church's pastor.

Runyan will remain in the Clermont County Jail until 1 p.m. Monday when he will appear in Clermont County Municipal Court for a bond hearing.

@ The Front
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