ANSONVILLE, N.C. (CBS Charlotte) – Vandals desecrated over a dozen churches Sunday night in at least three neighboring counties, breaking stained glass windows, writing graffiti, and even defecating on the altar of one church.
The destruction at each of the churches in Anson, Stanly and Rowan counties was discovered Monday morning, which implies to officers that these acts may have also been coordinated and executed at synchronized times by multiple parties.
The messages of hate written in graffiti on the churches are also similar, according to investigating authorities.
The damage to Cedar Hill AME Zion Church was especially severe, according to Anson County Sheriff Tommy Allen.
“There was graffiti, a lot of the f-word and the n-word, and (phrases such as) ‘God is a lie,’ and ‘house of the Devil,’ as well as a swastika … ‘Go back to Africa’ and those type of things,” he said.
Allen added, “They broke into the building, and … if you could turn it over, it was turned over, (and) stained glass windows were broken from the inside out as they threw chairs, speakers and sound equipment through the windows.”
The altar of the church was also destroyed.
“The podium was turned over and broken,” Allen said, adding that more graffiti was found inside, and a fire extinguisher had been set off. “Someone defecated on the table (at the altar), and stuck a cross in it.”
A child’s headstone was also thrown through the church’s window.
The other vandalized churches in neighboring counties had graffiti with similar messages scrawled across the outside, with themes alluding to devil worship, racism and anti-Semitism.
“We’re looking at all possibilities, and we have a few leads,” Allen said. “But there’s no common theme. It’s not just (one message) … there are all kinds of different signs, even some gang signs.”
According to WBTV, 12 churches in Stanly County were vandalized. And in Rowan County, an estimated $10,000 in damage was reported to Organ Lutheran Church in Salisbury.
“I’ve been doing this for almost 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Allen said. “Nothing even close to it.”
Rev. Renee Bethea of Cedar Hill AME Zion Church said that the faith of the congregation is helping everyone cope.
“Prayer, the realization that whoever did this has a lot of pain, hurting, a lot of anger, in some ways it’s just evil,” Rev. Bethea told WBTV. “Whoever did this has a story and it’s full of pain and anger.”