Loudon church opts to forgive boys over vandalism

By Lance Coleman knoxnews.com

When law enforcement officers saw the damage done by vandals at a Loudon County church, it appeared to be a hate crime.

When Loudon County Sheriff Tim Guider learned two boys ages 6 and 7 admitted to the crimes, he said it was hard to believe such damage could be done by two youngsters who had attended vacation Bible school at the church the previous week. That was how they had knowledge of the interior of Lee Heights Baptist Church, the sheriff said.

"It was pretty severe. You would think it was a hate crime, but I can't put my finger on what would cause that," he said. "I don't know what would make them do that."

Members of the church at 3033 Muddy Creek Road discovered the damage on July 25. Someone had used art supplies and toys to damage the fellowship hall, sanctuary and classroom and they also smeared food, feces and urine on floors and walls, the sheriff's office said.

"One of my investigators got information and questioned two young children, who admitted to doing the damage," Guider said. "They were brought back to an elder and pastor of the church who decided to not press charges."

Carl Dailey, the church's treasurer, said members of the congregation discussed it and decided they didn't want to prosecute.

"We just feel like that is not a thing for a church to do and we are going to let the Lord take care of it," he said.

Guider said members of the church and other volunteers turned out to clean up the mess and repair the damage. While no arrests were made, the sheriff said the case was turned over to the Tennessee Department of Human Services.