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Burglars smash walls, take safe from Perham church

Burglars smashed through a window, a door and three walls to get to the safe at a Perham church--and got away with only about a hundred bucks for all their labor.

The break-in occurred early morning, Sept. 3.

Though the cash losses were minimal, St. Paul's Lutheran Church Council President Fred Lehmkuhl is still going to offer a $250 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the culprits.

The damages all occurred on the new wing of the building, which was completed about two years ago. To enter the gym in the new education wing, a window broken and the entrance door damaged. The suspects smashed holes through three finished walls--creating an opening large enough to crawl through into the pastor's office, the church secretary's office and the youth pastor's office.

The burglars finally found the approximate 30 by 30 inch safe in one of the rooms they forced their way into. Lehmkuhl believes there had to be at least two suspects, because it would require two people to move the heavy safe.

From there, the suspects evidently carried the safe to an outlying storage building on the church grounds. There was a forced entry into the building, where the safe was found--with its door off.

Lemkuhl speculates that the burglars removed the safe, and brought it to the storage shed behind the church where they could work on the safe with less chance of being detected.

The church keeps little, if any, cash on the premises, said Lehmkuhl.

More important to the church, the safe is filled with historic church documents, records and other materials dating to the 1800's.

Also in the safe were about 1,400 raffle ticket stubs--all sold and ready for the drawings at the St. Paul's "German Festival" on Sept. 12.

Thankfully, the burglars are not believed to have taken any of those items from the safe, said Donna Ebeling, one of the church office staff.

"Praise God we didn't lose all those church records," said St. Paul's Youth Pastor Chris Brown.

The break-in occurred after Brown left the building, which was about 12:15 a.m. Thursday morning. The custoridan

The safe also contained birth, death and marriage records dating back more than a century, noted Mary Helen Zitzow, church staff.

Still, the damages are considerable and the repair costs will probably be higher than meets the eye. Even though the church has insurance, there is usually a deductible, noted Lehmkuhl.