Adventist Flock’s Facility is
Fleeced During Baptism
Brazen burglary nets prison term for robber
BY MARK A. KELLNER, News Editor
preacher may observe many things from the pulpit, but on Sabbath, July 4, 2009, Pastor Melvyn Warfield Jr., standing in the baptistry waters at Hillcrest Seventh-day Adventist Church on the north side of Nashville, Tennessee, saw something he never expected: a pair of men in the church parking lot, casing vehicles to rob. What's more, the duo had already cleaned out a multi-purpose building next to the church, which was packed with close to 300 worshippers that day.
“From [there] you can see the multi-purpose building, and I could see men coming out of that building, but it didn't really click for me until we were closing out the service,” Warfield said in a telephone interview.
“It was bold, in the middle of the day, 12:30 in the afternoon, just coming out with wheelbarrows full of stuff,” he added.
The wheelbarrow, however, had a glitch: its tire was flat, making the haul that much harder. Taken were a DVD/VCR player, “several” DVDs, two sets of marching drums, cooking utensils, gardening tools and “several hundred dollars worth of food,” according to an affidavit filed by Wayne Thompson, a church deacon. Warfield said the food was intended to feed those in need in the community.
As the burglary progressed, the two suspects were seen casing the parking lot for cars that had been left unlocked. A deacon informed Warfield, who told parishoners to take precautions.
“We had a church full of children,” Warfield recalled. “One of the men reportedly had a gun in his pocket. Most of congregation didn't realize what was happening. It’s a blessing there wasn't a panic.”
Said Thompson, who was watching the baptism of some relatives as the burglary unfolded, “I took it personal, I took it very personal. … That was kind of rough.”
Nashville Metro police arrested two men in connection with the burglary: Charles Randolph, age 44, was charged with burglary and theft; and Douglas Alan Merritt, age 61, was charged with burglary and theft. Randolph pled guilty to the charges on July 14, while charges against Merritt, who Thompson said “did not take part in the actual burglary,” were dismissed.
Warfield said the men allegedly claimed they were “cleaning out the building” in order to conduct renovations. No renovations were planned and, he said, the church wouldn’t do such work on the Sabbath, in any event.
Warfield and Thompson were in court to assist in the case against the men: “We want to be merciful and allow persons to take responsibility for their actions,” Warfield said.
Thompson said Randolph was sentenced to six years in state prison.