JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. — Five teens have been arrested over a two-week vandalism spree that spanned several counties and two states, and included damages to both residential and church property.
The names of four of the teens—two boys and two girls—have not been released due to their age, but the fifth suspect has been identified as 19-year-old Thomas Blaylock. All of the teens are from Erwin, Tennessee, and are facing over 60 charges of vandalism, burglary, civil rights intimidation and possession of a weapon of mass destruction.
According to reports, the crimes took place in Unicoi and Washington Counties in Tennessee, and across the border in Madison County, North Carolina.
“This was a team effort among all the sheriffs and the police departments,” Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley explained during a press conference on Tuesday. “I’m very proud of our investigators working side-by-side along with these other agencies to bring this to closure and to bring those responsible for these crimes to justice.”
The vandalism spree involved the destruction of dozens of mailboxes throughout the counties, including 34 mailboxes in Madison County alone. One of the boxes was destroyed by some kind of improvised explosive device. The youth also spray-painted vehicles, punctured tires and shattered windows with golf clubs that were believed to be stolen from a residence.
Swastikas and upside down crosses were spray-painted on a van at Unaka Springs Freewill Baptist Church of Erwin, as well as three vans belonging to Enon Baptist Church of Jonesborough. The windows were smashed and the tires slashed as well.
The five teens were apprehended on Sunday following an investigation. Hensley said that the impetus behind the crime spree appeared to be alcohol consumption and “meanness.” The teens have confessed to the vandalism, and Blaylock is expected to appear in court on Thursday.
“I want to thank God for helping us with this investigation,” Hensley stated.
“I’m very thankful that we’ve got godly men in these three counties that are able to seek God’s wisdom in closing cases like this,” also remarked Madison County Sheriff Buddy Harwood.
“We live in the Bible Belt, and if you are messing with our churches, we are going to come get you. We’re going to do our very best to put you in jail and make things right,” Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal likewise stated. “It kind of saddens my heart that we’re going through everything we’re going through with [violence against] the churches and then something like this happens at a church. It’s uncalled for.”
The sheriffs believe that there are likely others who have had their mailboxes damaged, who have not yet reported the incident. They are requesting for anyone who has been affected by the crime spree to come forward. It is also possible that there are additional suspects as the departments continue to investigate the matter.
As previously reported, Jesus taught in Mark 7:20-23 that evil actions proceed from evil thoughts out of unregenerated hearts.
“That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man,” He said. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”