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UPDATE

Alleged church vandals arrested

Church members say they hope break-ins, thefts will stop
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Two Foresthill residents are facing charges for causing $10,000 in damages to a Foresthill church in December, and church members say it’s great that arrests have been made. The Placer County Sheriff’s Office arrested Sean Matthew Junkins, 19, and a 16-year-old Foresthill male Friday, according to a press release issued Tuesday. Junkins was booked into Placer County Jail on felony burglary and vandalism charges, according to Lt. Mark Reed, spokesman for the Placer County Sheriff’s Office. The 16-year-old was booked into Juvenile Hall on the same charges, according to Sgt. Brian Whigam, of the Sheriff’s Office. According to Reed, two other juveniles could also be suspects, and the Sheriff’s Office sent criminal charges to the Placer County District Attorney’s Office for consideration. The two other juveniles are also Foresthill residents, Whigam said. The boys are charged with allegedly vandalizing New Hope Lutheran Church on Dec. 13. The church vandals caused $10,000 in damage, including destroying the set and some costumes for the then-upcoming Forest Charter School Christmas play. The vandals also broke doors, windows, and bathroom mirrors, set off fire extinguishers and damaged antique furniture. On Dec. 13, after the vandalism was discovered, a father of one of the Forest Charter students located several items that had been stolen from the church, including sound equipment, in a shack 50 yards behind the church. Things such as 666, KKK and an upside down cross were spray painted on the shack. Whigam said church members plan to dismantle the shack. Whigam said Junkins and the juveniles did not turn themselves in, but the Sheriff’s Office got a lead on them from local residents. “How this all came about is our resident deputies have been contacted by citizens in Foresthill (who gave) us information,” Whigam said. “That resulted in getting in contact with all four of these suspects.” Contact with Junkins came about through other vandalism residents believes he is connected to, Whigam said. “It has also been reported that more vandalism had been done by him carving symbols in town,” Whigam said. “Citizens have provided that information to the resident deputies … and that led to talking to him about the vandalism and theft at New Hope Lutheran Church.” Rosemary Mitchell, council president for New Hope Lutheran Church, said she hopes the alleged vandals learn a lesson through their arrests. “Especially with the juveniles, I just hope this is going to teach them not to do this kind of stuff,” Mitchell said. “They are young enough to change, I hope.” Mitchell said the church has been plagued with vandalism in the past, with disabled parking signs missing and a tree being cut down, as well as other break-ins. Whigam said Junkins is not currently being charged in connection to any past vandalism at the church. Linda Cholcher, treasurer for the church, said she was happy to hear the news of the arrests. “I’m delighted that they finally found them,” Cholcher said. “I’m just hoping they are able to rehabilitate them to understand a little more … respect for other people’s property (is important). This was church property. It seems like nothing is sacred any more.” Cholcher said there is a positive that has resulted from the costly damage. “The one thing that came out of this is we have a lot more communication with those using the (church),” she said. “Hopefully, we have the end of this vandalism.” Junkins is in custody in Placer County Jail and is ineligible for bail. His next court date is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in Auburn’s Placer County Jail courtroom. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com