HOUSTON COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - Deputies with the Houston County Sheriff's Office have arrested a suspect they believe is responsible for breaking into the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Kennard and then stealing a van sometime between April 12 and 16.
Matthew Lennen is still being held in the Houston County Jail on a state-jail felony theft between $1,500 and $20,000 charge, a state-jail felony unauthorized use of a motor vehicle charge, a Class A misdemeanor evading arrest charge, and a parole warrant out of Missouri. Collectively, his bail has been set at $28,000.
More charges could be pending, according to the Houston County Sheriff's Office.
Houston County Darrell Bobbitt said they were able to identity Lennen via surveillance video footage.
The church is located on State Highway 7 West in Kennard. Willie Mitchell Sr., the head deacon at the church, was the first to see the aftermath of the break-in.
"We opened that door and all that paper work was on the floor. The file cabinet had been broken into," said the 72-year-old Mitchell. He's been a member of New Hope for 70 years. "They stole keys to the church van, two keyboards and lots of canned goods, paper plates and napkins from the fellowship hall."
Mitchell says Houston County deputies called his wife on Friday to alert them of a sighting of the church van. Mitchell called the department back and was told the church van was spotted up in Grapeland - about 30 miles northwest of Kennard.
Mitchell said he was told by the deputy, "The guy was hunting for a pawn shop to try and sell the stuff."
On Saturday, life-long member Press Adar got a call from authorities in Crockett.
"The Police department called me and told me to come get the van at the Dollar Store in Crockett. That's where it was," Adar said. And he went to retrieve the vehicle.
The recovered van is being kept away from the church because it is an on-going investigation. And Deacon Mitchell said whoever stole this van, left it very dirty. Because they drove it through a lot of mud. They also trashed the inside of the van.
"It really didn't shock me," Adar said about the church break in in their small community, "Because another church down in Pennington got broken into about a week or so ago. It's Antioch Missionary Baptist Church."
The town of Pennington is about 17 miles southwest of Kennard.