The break-in at Hilltop Tabernacle Church at 346 L Street was discovered on Feb. 10. Someone broke into the building and ransacked the church, taking cash and a laptop computer, investigators said. The thief or thieves also broke into a recreational vehicle parked on the property and stole several purses and watches. The total loss was estimated at $10,000.
The church pastor spoke to Fox 5, but did not want to be on-camera while the investigation is ongoing.
“Horrendous damage,” he told Fox 5. “Every office, doors kicked in, destroyed. It was not a pretty scene.”
Despite the loss and damage the pastor said the congregation is staying positive.
“Our heads up, chins up, smiles on our faces,” he said. “None of our people got hurt. I’m very thankful for that.”
The pastor can also be thankful the suspect was caught.
Police found an cell phone that the burglar apparently left at the crime scene. Investigators found a “selfie” photo on the phone, and a detective recognized the location where the photo was taken as Harborside Park in Chula Vista. Police took the photo to the park and showed it to people. One of them recognized the person in the photo, identified him as 26-year-old Adam Howe and told officers where to look for Howe, police said.
The next day, police found Howe. They searched his belongings and found several items that had been taken from the church, according to Capt. Lon Turner, Chula Vista Police. Howe was arrested on burglary charges and is scheduled to be arraigned on February 14.
“We certainly will take advantage of any opportunity that criminals leave behind for us to help catch and convict them,” said Capt. Turner.
Some of the stolen property was still missing, so police searched an area near the church that Howe allegedly frequented. They found a young man and a woman in a tent, and more items taken from the church were in their tent. Police arrested Mario Nava, 27 and Victoria Core, 19, for possession of stolen property. They two denied taking part in the burglary.