Church burned, hit by thief in different incidents

| May 19, 2010

An Orangeburg County church has been a crime scene several times over the past few days. The church was set on fire last week, and if that isn't enough on Tuesday a member caught a man trying to steal from the charred remains.

Police are accusing a teenager of burning down Cedar Grove AME Church.

"Everybody was saying how shameful it was that somebody would burn the church down," said church member Frank Phelps.

On Tuesday, while surveying the damages of the fire Phelps came face-to-face with a man who admits to his part in a plot to steal copper wire from the rubble.

"A man's got to do, what he's got to do to survive," said Johnson Heyward Cope.

The 62-year-old was caught after he tried to steal the copper, only to leave behind his cell phone and tools. The unemployed man offered no excuses for his criminal behavior.

"I guess because I was at my wits end, and I didn't know what to do," said Cope.

Moments after he was caught, the sheriff's department arrived where they discovered there were more people connected to the attempted theft.

Minutes later, Cope's son 27-year-old Jonathan Scott Cope, along with 61-year-old Mary Elizabeth Taylor and 20-year-old Mary Beth Wood arrived. They learned they too would be charged in the crime. It's believed the trio knew about the attempted theft.

Frank Phelps says the church is in the business of forgiving, but there's a lesson that must be learned.

"You just can't go about doing wrong, without consequences," said Phelps.

The consequences include a night in jail and a possible fine for the group. They're all accused of stealing from a congregation, that was already trying to recover.

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Category: Church Security