News

Church burglary charges amended

Island County prosecutors have added to the list of charges against a 20-year-old Oak Harbor man accused of a string of church burglaries over the summer.

As of Oct., 8, Christopher Nielsen is facing five counts of second-degree burglary, possession of methamphetamine, theft in the first degree, theft in the second degree two counts of third-degree theft and malicious mischief in the second degree.

Nielsen is accused of breaking into churches — including Whidbey Presbyterian at least twice, Assembly of God Church, First Reformed Church and Oak Harbor Lutheran — and stealing a computer, a monitor, keys, a jar of coins, cash and checks, according to a report by Det. Carl Seim of Oak Harbor Police Department. He’s also accused of causing damage to the buildings and equipment when he broke in.

At Whidbey Presbyterian Church, Nielsen ate two boxes of cereal and detectives were able to lift his fingerprints from a box of Lucky Charms, the report states.

Officer Larry Ferguson caught Nielsen in the act of breaking into a church early in the morning of July 31, Seim wrote.

In response to at least five burglaries, Ferguson was assigned special detail dedicated to checking area churches. He was checking Assembly of God Church on SW Third Avenue when he saw a suspicious lump in the grass.

The lump, which starting moving, turned out to be Nielsen, according to Ferguson’s report. The young man had a backpack containing tools “consistent with performing burglaries,” the officer wrote, which included bolt cutters, wire cutters and a flashlight. There was also a set of keys that were stolen from another church, the report states.

Nielsen told officers that he was not involved in the burglaries. He said he was walking to a friend’s house and cut through the church property when he was stopped, according to the report.

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

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