Oakville teenager charged with church thefts

An Oakville teenager caught on surveillance camera robbing a church has been charged with a series of thefts last week at four south county churches.

Prosecutors on Thursday charged Zachary Witte, 17, of the 700 block of Ivygate Drive, with six felonies and one misdemeanor for the church thefts, including three counts of second-degree burglary, one count of attempted second-degree burglary, two counts of stealing over $500 and one count of second-degree property damage. He is being held on $50,000 bond.

Police say Witte confessed to all the charges, which stem from break-ins at four area churches last week, two in Crestwood and two in Oakville: Episcopal Church of the Advent, 9373 Garber Road, on Nov. 24, Faith Lutheran Church, 6101 Telegraph Road, on Nov. 27, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, 4900 Ringer Road, on Nov. 27, and Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 8646 Sappington Road, on Nov. 28.

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, or SMMA, officials said last week that they discovered on Thanksgiving morning that someone stole more than $25,000 in donated gift cards from the church, which the culprit later returned with a note of apology.

In the complaint for prosecutors, Det. Chad Louis said police identified Witte from a car caught on surveillance footage at one of the churches. The Crestwood Police Department collaborated on the investigation.

Witte’s car was caught on cameras at SMMA, police spokesman Sgt. Brian Schellman said.

Some of the interior facilities in the school at SMMA were damaged during the burglary, including the concession stand, SMMA Athletic Association President Keith Louis said in a Facebook post the church shared on its Facebook page.

“I would have never guessed I would I have to deal with so many occurrences of break-ins and vandalism,” Louis wrote.

Since the burglar attempted to break into a safe but damaged it in the process too much to open it, the church would have to pay for a locksmith, and products were stolen from the concession stand, Louis said.

“I am hoping these people are caught before they hurt someone,” he wrote.