Moultrie Observer

Local News

June 29, 2012

Air conditioners stolen from churches; 2 men charged

MOULTRIE — An observant church member who saw a suspicious vehicle outside New Elm Baptist Church helped nab two men suspected in thefts of air conditioners there and at another church.

While driving by New Elm Baptist on her way into Moultrie, Rita Powell noticed a black SUV with tinted windows outside the building on Thursday afternoon. When she turned around and headed into the driveway of the 5226 Ga. Hwy. 33 N. church the truck sped by her and headed north.

A witness told a Colquitt County Sheriff’s Office deputy that the truck appeared to be a Dodge Durango, and Powell gave a description of two men. One was a black male wearing blue jeans and plaid shirt, who was outside the truck as she drove past the building, and the other was a skinny white male who was driving.

Two central heat and air units were stolen from the church, and a third was damaged.

A short time later, William Sheffield reported the theft of a central unit from Joyful Church of God, 1802 U.S. Hwy. 319 N, Norman Park.

In the meantime, area law enforcement agencies were given a description of the vehicle and two men seen at New Elm Baptist, sheriff’s investigator Jim Brown said.

“A short time later a Worth County deputy spotted a vehicle matching the ‘BOLO’ (Be On the LookOut) description on Georgia 133 in Worth County just before the Dougherty County line,” Brown said. “The deputy made contact with the two, who were arrested.”

Inside the 2003 Durango the deputy saw a central heating and air unit and other components from an air conditioner, Brown said.

Joyful Church gave a description and serial number for the stolen unit.

“That information matched up that it was the stolen unit that was in that truck,” Brown said. “Since then we have linked them to the theft at New Elm Church.”

A third theft was reported by Pamela Green of the 2200 block of Sumner Road of thefts of parts from an air conditioner, but the two have not been linked to that theft, Brown said.

That third theft was valued at $3,000, while New Elm’s loss was $8,000 and the loss for Joyful was about $5,000.

Brown said that the two men, who met and apparently became friends while inmates at a correctional facility in Americus, were picking out-of-the-way churches during daylight hours.

“A lot of these churches don’t have full-time employees who would stay there on a business day,” he said. “We believed they thought them to be easy targets. This is a perfect example of an observant citizen that provided us with information. If these individuals had made it into Dougherty County, they probably would have gotten rid of this unit.”

Matthew Thomas Peretti, 24, 2208 Fifth St. S.E., Moultrie, and Brian Christopher Jones, 28, 2214 14th St. Apt. C, Columbus, were jailed Thursday on theft charges.

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