Thieves ransack Ramona church, steal sacred items

RAMONA - Investigators are searching for the thieves who broke into a Ramona church in broad daylight Monday afternoon.

The break in, which was captured on surveillance video, occurred at St. Mary's In The Valley Episcopal Church, located at 1010 12th St.  A parishioner discovered the break-in when he went to the church to pick up the Sunday offering and take it to the bank. The weekly collection is usually a few hundred dollars.

"They kicked in through this window… and stole a safe and put it on an office chair and used that to roll it out onto the car," Reverend Gwynn Freund said.  

The thieves were in and out in roughly 7 minutes. At least two suspects were involved, and a third may have been waiting in a car. After stealing the safe from the office, they made their way to the parish hall.

"They broke this window and pushed it open and then climbed in through the men's room," Freund said.

The thieves ransacked the sacristy and stole many sacred items used for communion, including engraved silver plates and chalices. They even took the communion wine.

"All of those items are things that were given to the church in memory of loved ones and have been used in services for 50 years," Freund said.

The reverend said the break-in the entire congregation.

"It's very painful for the whole congregation, because these things don't belong to me, they belong to us, and they are part of God's house here, and have been used so faithfully for so many years," Freund said.

The thieves also raided a supply room used to make quilts for people around the world. Three irons were stolen.

The room where Sunday School is taught was also hit.

"They took a rolling bin of crayons and glue sticks and little kids scissors and markers and Sunday School lessons. I don't know why," Freund said.

The break in occurred the week before Easter.

"Easter is Sunday, and Easter is that reminder that life and love win,” Freund said. “If something terrible is going to happen, perhaps Holy Week is the best time for that to happen, because you have that Easter Sunday just around the corner,  that reaffirmation of hope."

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department has not released the surveillance video or confirmed if investigators have identified any of the suspects.

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