Three suspects arrested for vandalism spree that damaged LDS chapels in St. George area

(Mark Eddington | The Salt Lake Tribune) A church at 3891 E. Desert Canyon Parkway in the St. George area had its windows broken.

St. George Police have arrested two adults and a juvenile in connection with a four-day vandalism spree that damaged 14 Latter-day Saint chapels in southwestern Utah.

Acting on a tip from a concerned resident last week, St. George and Washington City police officers arrested two 18-year-olds and a 17-year-old, all from the St. George area.

All three suspects have been charged with second-degree felony criminal mischief, according to St. George police.

Police spokesperson Tiffany Mitchell said suspects are responsible for vandalizing nine chapels in St. George, two in Washington and three in Hurricane. The vandals smashed windows and did an estimated $5,000 damage to the meetinghouses, all of which are owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Mitchell said police were alerted to the vandalism spree just after midnight on July 20, when someone called dispatch and reported seeing several suspects breaking windows at a chapel at 3891 E Desert Canyons Parkway in St. George and provided officers with a detailed description of the vehicle and suspects.

While investigating the crime, St. George police officers became aware of another meetinghouse that was hit the night before on 3000 East, which borders Washington City. It was only after alerting police agencies all over the county to check on churches of all denominations that investigators became aware of the full extent of the spree, Mitchell said.

A few days later, on July 23, police received a tip from someone who became aware of suspicious social media messages, which later led to the identification of the three suspects, according to Mitchell.

Police officers say two of the suspects confessed to the vandalism. Mitchell said the vandals’ motives are unclear at this point.

Vandalism against churches in the St. George area is rare but is not a new phenomenon. Last August, a man set fire to three Latter-day Saint meetinghouses in St. George and later told police he did so out “of righteous anger.”

St. George police also recently dealt with a rash of vandalism to restrooms at city parks.

“We deal with this on and off,” Mitchell said, “when kids make poor choices and do this kind of stuff.”