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Allen County Sheriff's Department
Austin J. Hutchens

Church break-in suspect charged

A man accused of breaking into the same church twice and trying a third time was preliminarily charged Monday in connection with the crimes.

Austin J. Hutchens, 21, of the 4100 block of Mayberry Street, told police he and a friend were responsible for the two prior break-ins after police caught them in the middle of the night May 27 as they tried to enter the church a third time, according to a probable cause affidavit.

The first two burglaries at Messiah Lutheran Church at Stellhorn and Lahmeyer roads were in early and late May and resulted in damage to doors and windows. Snacks, two laptops and seven tubs of cookie dough were taken, a total value of about $1,300, according to the affidavit.

After the first two break-ins, police set up surveillance of the church on the night of May 27 and about 2 a.m. saw two people, one of whom was later identified as Hutchens, try to open windows and doors to the building, the report said.

When police approached, one of the two intruders made his escape on foot.

Police found a metal chisel and screwdriver in Hutchens' backpack when they arrested him. He said he used the items to break into the church and interior rooms, according to the report. Hutchens was being held Tuesday in lieu of $32,500 bail.