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$10K vandalism damage disrupts school play

Parent finds stolen sound equipment in nearby shack
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Parents and students were shocked Monday to find their Foresthill school was vandalized on the night of a Christmas play. Forest Charter School students were expecting to put on their Christmas production at the school’s New Hope Lutheran Church location on Foresthill Road in Foresthill Monday, but when students began arriving around 5:30 p.m. they found their sets had been destroyed. “We set up in the afternoon and we had a dress rehearsal matinee performance,” said Leanne Engel, an educational specialist and site coordinator with the school. When families returned to see the evening performance, they found broken doors, broken windows, broken bathroom mirrors, fire extinguishers that had been set off, damaged sets and missing sound equipment, Engel said. “I think everybody was really shocked when we first found out,” she said. “A lot of the kids were crying, very devastated. They had worked all semester on these sets.” According to Sgt. Brian Whigam, of the Placer County Sheriff’s Office, the vandals caused at least $10,000 worth of damage to the church and the school’s materials. Whigam said Tuesday morning while several sets of footprints were found at the scene, no known suspects have been identified. The vandals also destroyed antique furniture and took alcohol, candy, kitchen knives and a computer, Whigam said. “It’s a bit juvenile in the sense that the alcohol, candy, that those items were taken,” he said. One of the parents, Scott Sanders, found the stolen sound equipment in a shack up a trail from the church, Whigam said. “The good news is that last night, on a hunch, Scott and his family walked into the woods and found all the equipment that was stolen in a broken-down shack that had a lot of demonic writing on it,” Engel said. Sanders said initially his family didn’t know about the shack. “I didn’t know the shack was there, but we had found some of the equipment down the fire road, so we just decided to go back,” Sanders said. “So, we thought, ‘Well, if they were ditching equipment, there is a chance they could have ditched more.’” Whigam said none of the writing on the shack is related to the church. “On the shack they have the numbers 666 engraved and an upside-down cross, but that has been there for quite some time,” he said. The letters KKK can also be seen on the shack. Sanders said his daughter saw someone taking off on a bicycle and yelling something when his family arrived at the church. When the family found the shack, it resulted in a mixture of feelings. “We were out there without a sheriff’s officer, and I wasn’t sure if anyone was still around,” he said. “It was a little unnerving. At the same time, it was nice to know they didn’t get away with it.” The Sheriff’s Office believes the suspects probably stashed the items in the shack, because they couldn’t carry them all away, Whigam said. “It took several trips to return the property back to the church,” he said. Sheriff’s deputies analyzed the scene from 5:30 p.m. Monday to 1:30 a.m. Tuesday and plan to ask around in the community for anyone who might have information about the vandalism, Whigam said. Diana Blais, who has two children who attend the school, said her kids were very upset by the vandalism. “I think they were shocked, upset and just in disbelief that someone would do this,” Blais said. “It’s hard not to take it personally.” Despite the last-minute vandalism discovery, the school was able to find another location for Monday night’s play, according to Engel. Blais said while the event has brought the school community together, the vandalism would cause the school to have to relocate its classes for Thursday, which is the last day of the semester. “It was neat to see the families and teachers pull together,” Blais said. “This is going to take a lot of time and effort for the community that doesn’t have the time and money right now. This is just such a senseless act, and the timing of it couldn’t be worse.” Anyone with information about the vandalism can call CrimeStoppers at (800) 923-8191 or Whigam at (530) 889-7800. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com