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Church burglary suspects arraigned in Hawkins County

Jeff Bobo • Sep 28, 2009 at 12:00 AM

ROGERSVILLE — As of Monday morning when Jared Hicks and Keith Crownover were arraigned in Hawkins County Sessions Court on charges stemming from a rash of church burglaries, the tally had reached 30 including one in Sullivan County.

Hicks, 18, 188 Byington Road, Rogersville, and Crownover, 18, 214 Smyrna Road, Surgoinsville, were arrested by the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office Thursday on 26 counts of burglary, aggravated burglary, seven counts of theft, and two counts of attempted burglary.

Those charges stem from a rash of church burglaries discovered in unincorporated areas around Church Hill, Surgoinsville and Rogersville on Sept. 18, 20 and 21. Those 26 church burglaries included three repeat victims.

This past weekend, the Surgoinsville Police Department additionally charged Hicks and Crownover with one count each of burglary and one count each of theft over $500 stemming from a Sept. 10 break-in at the Surgoinsville First Baptist Church in which $582 was taken from a safe.

Surgoinsville Police Chief Jeff Hesoun noted that this was actually the first of the 30 church burglaries and the most successful for the suspects monetarily.

The Church Hill Police Department has also additionally charged Hicks and Crownover each with two counts of burglary, two counts of vandalism, and theft under $500 stemming from a break-in at New Life Missionary Baptist Church discovered Sept. 18 and a break-in at First United Methodist Church on Sept. 20.

Doors were damaged in both Church Hill burglaries, and $50 was taken from a safe in the New Life Missionary Baptist break-in.

Upon being arrested early Thursday morning, the teens allegedly admitted to the 26 county burglaries, as well as the Church Hill and Surgoinsville burglaries.

On Monday, the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office also filed charges against Hicks and Crownover of burglary and vandalism stemming from a burglary that occurred at Solomon’s Temple Church between Sept. 19-20 on Lonestar Road in the Sullivan Gardens area of Sullivan County.

According to a report filed by SCSO Capt. Keith Elton, detectives interviewed Hicks and Crownover after their arrest in Hawkins County, and both suspects admitted to breaking into the church on Lonestar Road by prying open a door.

Following their arraignment Monday in Hawkins County Sessions Court, both suspects were ordered held on their previous $75,000 bond each, and a preliminary hearing was scheduled for Oct. 19 at 1 p.m.

Hicks and Crownover were arrested in the early morning hours of Sept. 24 near a church on Zion Hill Road in Surgoinsville.

HCSO Sgt. Tony Allen stated in his report that shortly before 2 a.m. he was parked at Charity Baptist Church on Zion Hill Road when he heard a motor race and observed a white truck accelerate at a high rate of speed.

Allen stated in his report he had to travel 65 mph in a 30 mph zone to catch the truck and conducted the traffic stop at Bass Chapel Church.

During the traffic stop, Allen said he observed a brown paper bag containing four beer bottles in the passenger side floorboard.

Both suspects denied ownership of the alcohol. Hicks said they’d found it on the side of the road and were going to pour it out, Allen said.

They were initially arrested on a charge of underage possession of alcohol. Deputies had been staking out churches due to the rash of burglaries, however, and the suspects were both questioned about the recent church burglaries in Hawkins County.

According to Sheriff Roger Christian, both teens gave statements incriminating themselves in the burglaries.

The rash of Hawkins County church burglaries was confined to an area between Church Hill and Rogersville and between Beech Creek Road and near the Virginia state line.

The teens also allegedly burglarized a Hawkins County home and stole money and other items, although a detailed report of that incident has not been released.

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