Musicians arrested in church break-ins in midstate

lfabian@macon.comMay 11, 2010 

Two gospel musicians are accused of playing at churches then preying on them in more than 25 break-ins in nearly a dozen counties across eastern Middle Georgia.

More than $100,000 worth of music equipment and electronics has been recovered in the joint investigation of the sheriff’s offices in Laurens, Johnson and Washington counties.

Drummer and guitar player Rico Blackshear, 28, of Dublin, and keyboard player DeShawn Thomas, 28, of Sandersville, were arrested Wednesday. Since that time, authorities have been able to link the pair to at least two dozen incidents beginning last November.

“It was an investigation that was done by the three agencies combined, and they took information they received and kept piecing it together and working it,” said Laurens County sheriff’s Capt. Stan Wright.

Investigators said they are continuing to track down and recover stolen items in the case that reaches into Dodge, Bleckley, Pulaski, Twiggs, Glascock, Treutlen, possibly Jefferson and three other counties.

“We moved six pickup loads, I think, from three locations in the Dublin area and also some from Washington County that day,” Wright said.

“We look to uncover some more property, and the investigation is continuing and there’s a possibility of more arrests.”

Laurens County investigator Steve Howard said in most instances, Blackshear and Thomas performed with gospel bands at the churches where thefts occurred. The names of the groups were not disclosed because the suspects substituted for other musicians in legitimate groups, and Howard did not want to sully the reputation of innocent band members.

Wright said the musicians would go back later, pry their way into the churches and pilfer sound boards, microphones, stands and musical instruments. He knows of five churches hit in Laurens County alone.

“That’s pretty low, isn’t it?” he said.

Many of the items already had been pawned or swapped for other equipment, Howard said.

Washington County Sheriff Thomas Smith said five churches were burglarized in his county in February and four more in April.

The Union Hill Baptist Church in Sandersville was hit twice in one week as the thieves apparently had to return with more help to load up the speakers.

“It was awful the way they did it,” Smith said.

“We’ve been working on it every day, and one of my investigators got a tip.”

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.

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