Crime

Bibb deputies called back to burned Macon church for possible burglary

A phone call reporting a possible burglary in progress awoke God’s Power Church of Christ member Gladys Reeves before 6 a.m. Friday.

“Oh, my heart was racing and I said, ‘My God, what else could be happening at the church,’” Reeves said. “I mean, we’ve had the fire. What more can anybody do to us now?”

At about 5:45 a.m., Bibb County deputies had a report of a suspicious person on the grounds of the burned-out church at 1985 Cedar Ave. in Unionville.

They called Reeves, who is the daughter of Lillie Mae Powell, the elderly pastor of the church.

After someone deliberately set a fire inside on June 23, keys to the building were turned over to the Federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, which is investigating the church blaze as standard procedure.

An ATF representative also responded Friday morning and the investigation centered on the rear air conditioning unit.

Macon-Bibb Fire Department arson investigator, Sgt. Ben Gleaton, also inspected the rear of the building near the air conditioning unit where things appeared to have been tampered with since his last look.

He compared earlier photographs and determined some copper wiring was taken from the service panel.

“It’s not at all uncommon where we have a fire that people will come in and scavenge the wire out of it,” Gleaton said.

Authorities suspect the thief could return for more, so they advised the church to secure the gated fence around the unit.

“We’re just leaving everything in the hands of the Lord and hoping that things are going to work out for us,” Reeves said.

An outpouring of support is beginning to filter in, she said.

“It started off pretty slowly, but people are reaching out to help us,” Reeves said.

A benefit fund for God’s Power Church of Christ has been set up at American Pride Bank.

“I don’t want any finances going through my hands,” Reeves said. “We appreciate the outreach of resources trying to help us.”

Representatives of the church are expected to attend a news conference Monday at 10 a.m. with Macon-Bibb County elected officials and the Macon-Bibb Council of Clergy.

Commissioner Larry Schlesinger wants local congregations to attend to “send a message to the community that attacks on houses of worship will not be tolerated.”

Investigators have stressed there is no evidence racial hatred motivated the fire at the church, which had been burglarized twice in the weeks before the fire.

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 478-744-4303.

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