ELLISVILLE, Miss. (WDAM) - Three men were arrested Tuesday in Ellisville after they were reportedly caught with marijuana inside a church they had broken into.
“In my 27 years of law enforcement, I have never seen the disrespect for a house of worship as I witnessed today,” Ellisville Police Chief Bruce Russell said in a statement.
According to Russell, officers were called to the Church of God on North Court Street around 3 p.m. after a passerby called 911 saying it appeared three men were trying to break into the building.
Russell said responding officers found two broken windows and an open door when they got to the scene.
When they walked into the church, the officers smelled marijuana and heard music playing through the church’s sound system.
Russell said the officers searched the building and found 20-year-old Christopher Clark, 19-year-old Edward Ransom and 19-year-old Damien Newell hiding behind the church’s pulpit and choir loft.
Police also found nearly four ounces of marijuana.
Clark, Ransom and Newell were each charged with burglary of a church and possession of marijuana.
Lt. Scott Wuertz said according to Mississippi law, breaking and entering into a religious building carries a stronger charge and potential sentencing than other break-ins.
“The penalties are a lot steeper. You don’t have to commit as much of a crime for it to become a felony,” said Wuertz. “We don’t play with the laws when it comes to a church. The crime of burglary to a church has a penalty of up to 14 years in prison.”
All three suspects were booked into the Jones County Jail on $5,000 bonds and then released Wednesday evening.