MILLEDGEVILLE, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) - Authorities are trying to figure out who is behind a rash of church burglaries in several counties across Middle Georgia that could possibly be related.
These crimes have been going on for months and investigators do not have many leads. The criminals are targeting churches in rural areas, breaking in, and stealing electronics.
"Hard to believe that someone can actually do something like that to a church," Salem Baptist Church member Teresa Williams said.
It is part of the 10 commandments: thou shall not steal. But someone broke that sacred rule at the Salem Baptist Church in Baldwin County. Williams works in the youth center and says earlier this month, the crooks forced their way into a window in the back of the building. They stole the church's speakers, music equipment, and electronics. According to the incident report, the stolen equipment totals more than $5,000.
"That's what our youth depended on. We used that at all our youth rallies and youth functions and we no longer have that," Williams said.
This is just one of two churches that were burglarized in Baldwin County. In April, criminals broke into the Mitchell Zion Baptist Church and stole almost $9,000 worth of electronics. Authorities in Laurens County are working three similar cases and one church in Jones County was victimized.
Investigators are trying to determine if they are connected, but so far they do not have many leads.
"You can run away from the law, but you cannot hide from God," Williams said.
Even though these burglars preyed on the faithful, Williams says church goers won't let this crime dampen their spirit.
"We're not going to let it get us down," she said. "God is going to get us through it."
With a little prayer and some detective skills, she hopes investigators will catch the bad guys and bring the music back to their church.
Williams says the church is insured for all the equipment that was stolen.
Investigators haven't found the electronics from any of the church burglaries. The different law enforcement agencies are working together on these cases.
WARNER ROBINS, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – The city of Warner Robins is making sure members of the Band of the U.S. Air Force Reserve know how much they mean to the community.
Tuesday, Officials from the city of Warner Robins along with sponsors held a news conference to honor the band that's been apart of the community for many decades.
The band is one of three that has been cut due to budget issues.
Major General Craig Gourley says the band will be missed.
"It's very sad I will tell you, it means so much to have our vocalists sing the National Anthem, so its not really set in yet, I'll tell you that much," Gourley says.
Actress and Singer Bobbie Eakes and the band Stillwater will be performing with the band at their farewell performance at the Warner Robins Independence Day Concert on July 3rd at McConnell-Talbert Stadium.
The group will officially disband in September.
MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) -- The parents of Mercer Law graduate Lauren Giddings filed a wrongful death lawsuit against their daughter's accused killer, Stephen McDaniel on Monday.
In a 23 page suit, William and Karen Giddings filed a complaint for damages for wrongful death, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and unlawful interference with right of burial. In the court filings, Giddings' parents stated the reasons for their actions are, "in the interest of pursuing justice for their daughter at every turn and in ensuring that Stephen McDaniel faces judgement to the full extent provided by the law..."
McDaniel is accused of murdering and dismembering Giddings in June 2011. Giddings' torso was found on June 30, 2011 inside a trash can in the parking lot of the Barrister's Hall apartments on Georgia Avenue where she lived. Her torso is the only part of her body that has been recovered to this day.
Hoping to find their daughter's remains, William and Karen asked for permission to search property owned by McDaniel's late grandfather, Hollis Browning. The lawsuit claimed McDaniel visited the 63-acres of woods during Father's Day weekend in 2011 and "surveyed the property for locations where he could scatter dismembered body parts through the woods in accordance with his murder plan."
In an email Lauren's sister Kaitlyn Wheeler said, "My parents and I are dedicated to pursuing every avenue the law allows to seek justice for my sister and find out exactly what happened here. In addition to an opportunity to get answers, a civil judgment against McDaniel will ensure he never profits from what he did to my sister."
McDaniel's attorney Franklin Hogue said civil lawsuits are about money. Hogue said he's done about 70 murder cases and has only seen these types of suits a 'handful of times'. Based on previous cases, clients typically don't have anything left, therefore he has advised, "Don't even answer the complaint."
The multi-million dollar suit is based on the economic value of Lauren's life, which includes the money she would have made practicing as an attorney, but also the loss of her companionship, advice, and love, according to Wheeler.
"There is no moving forward from or getting over the loss of my sister and there never will be - but we try to live with joy as she would have wanted us to," wrote Wheeler.
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