4 suspects arrested, 5 wanted after string of church burglaries in Panola County


PANOLA CO., Miss. — The sheriff of Panola County says more arrests are coming in connection with burglaries of nine churches. Four people have already been charged and as many as five more are being sought.

“Several of them in the Pope area, the Courtland area. We’ve had some out in the Mount Olivet area out here,” said Justin Maples, an investigator with the Panola County Sheriff’s Office

It’s a huge crime scene for investigators with the Panola County Sheriff’s Office. Nine churches have been burglarized since last April, with a wide variety of items stolen.

“Your wall heaters, stoves and water heaters, things of that nature,” Maples said. “We do have some sound equipment, musical instruments, things of that nature. At one church they reported vacuum cleaners stole.”

So far four persons from Panola County have been charged with burglary, larceny and conspiracy, but the sheriff promises more arrests are forthcoming.

We’re told blood evidence found at a church on Curtis Road helped identify one suspect.

The sheriff says more suspects were developed after his department was contacted by someone who unknowingly purchased some of the stolen property on the streets.

“If you have bought something from someone, call us,” said Sheriff Shane Phelps. “We’re not going to come lock you up. If you didn’t know these items were stolen, please call us.”

Reverend Walter Williams, who’s Batesville church isn’t among those burglarized, says it’s obvious people are crying out for a message of faith.

“We have to do a better job reaching out to our local communities with Jesus and try to make a difference from that perspective,” Williams said. “Because unredeemed people live and make unredeemed decisions.”

A lot of property stolen from those nine churches has yet to be recovered, so if you can help call the Panola County Sheriff’s Office at 662-563-6230 or Crime Stoppers at 1-888-827-4637.

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