WESTMINSTER - The Seventh Day Adventist Church will not press charges against the two 11-year-old boys who police say caused $15,000 in damage to the building Sunday afternoon "because they were bored."
"The message we want to get out is that we're not bitter and we don't want vengeance," said the Rev. Stanley W. Cottrell. "We want to help these kids and their parents any way we can."
The two boys, whose names are not being released because of their age, confessed to breaking into the Crest Lane church between 4 and 6 p.m. and vandalizing the two-story building, police said.
First Lt. Kenneth L. Tregoning, Westminster state police barracks commander, said the boys have been charged in a juvenile petition with breaking and entering, theft and destruction of property and released to their parents.
"What happens to them now is up to Juvenile Services," Tregoning said, adding it did not matter the church decided not to press charges. "We can go ahead and charge them because they admitted to the investigating officer that they did it."
Cottrell said the police charges have no effect on the church's decision not to press the case. He said he plans to go to court with the families when the time comes.
"We may not have any control over what the court decides, however," Cottrell said.
The vandalism was discovered shortly after 6 p.m. when church members arrived for a caroling activity, Cottrell said. Windows had been broken, a baptistery was filled with plants and other items, food collected for the needy was scattered about, holes were made in the ceiling, light fixtures were shattered, food was dumped throughout the kitchen and obscenities were scribbled on a chalkboard. Thirty trophies earned over the years by the church's youth were dumped in the nearby woods, Cottrell added.
"They live in the neighborhood; it was probably the most convenient place for them to go," he said.
"They (told police) they did it because they were bored and had nothing to do. But we've had tremendous rapport with the parents of the boys and we're doing everything we can to help them."
Insurance will cover the cost of the damage, the pastor said, adding it's "nothing that can't be cleaned or repaired."
The boys and their parents are not members of the church, but they also have been helping to clean up the damage, Cottrell said. Church members spent Monday cleaning and repairing what they could, and a cleaning service came in yesterday to do heavy work, such as shampooing carpets and scrubbing walls.
The trophies were retrieved and one of the boys' fathers took the broken ones for repair, he noted.
"The parents (of the boys) are completely devastated," Cottrell said.
"They have no idea why the boys did it. But we're reaching out to them with love and support and in whatever way we can.
"Our main concern is to help the boys. If this is their way of crying for help, we want to help."