Church burglar captured

A Newton man is in jail after breaking into a local church, several vehicles and leading police on a foot chase.

Police say a citizen called police about 2:30 a.m. Thursday after seeing a suspicious man checking for unlocked car doors near 11th Street and North Gaither Avenue in Newton.

When police arrived moments later, the suspect fled. Newton Police Chief Don Brown said a chase ended when the suspect fell down a large drainage ditch, injuring himself.

Police questioned and searched the suspect, who possessed several items belonging to the First Baptist Church, which was nearby at 501 NW Blvd. in Newton, Brown said.

“Once they took him into custody, he had some items from the church in his pockets,” Brown said. “The officers went back to the church and found that it in fact had been broken into.”

Brandon Michael Beatty, 21, of 1319 N. Main Ave. in Newton, was arrested and charged with breaking or entering a place of worship, safe cracking, injury to personal property, breaking or entering a motor vehicle, misdemeanor larceny and possession of stolen goods.

Beatty is in the Catawba County Detention Center on a combined $75,000 bond. His first court appearance is scheduled for today.

The First Baptist Church is one of four Newton churches that have been burglarized recently.

Thieves hit a trio of churches on March 2 near the 700 block of West 13th Street in Newton along U.S. 321 Business. Trinity Baptist Church, St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church and the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany all reported break-ins overnight and damages to church buildings.

During the break-ins, the thieves also stole a safe from the Catholic Church, which was later recovered by police and returned to church members.

Brown said it is possible Beatty is connected to the other break-ins, but said the investigation is ongoing.