Thieves trash St. Hubert in late-night Langley break-in

Langley Police Officer Randy Heston and Father Rick Spicer discuss the damage done at St. Hubert Catholic Church Thursday morning. Police arrested two suspects. - Brian Kelly / The Record
Langley Police Officer Randy Heston and Father Rick Spicer discuss the damage done at St. Hubert Catholic Church Thursday morning. Police arrested two suspects.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / The Record

Police arrest pair at the scene of the crime

LANGLEY — Police arrested two men redhanded when officers found them vandalizing St. Hubert Catholic Church in a drunken rage early Thursday morning.

Craig Firth, 19, and Sean McLaughlin, 26, were arrested and booked into Island County Jail for breaking into The Braeburn Restaurant and the Catholic church.

The damage at the church was significant.

On Friday morning, glass splinters were still spread out all over the church property. In front of the church, the statue of the Virgin Mary stood in her usual spot spreading out her arms to welcome visitors, but that morning she was holding shattered glass in her hands.

“I have no idea why they picked us,” said Father Rick Spicer.

“It suddenly shattered my perception of Langley as a quiet town,” he added.

Inside, dents and holes in the walls were the reminders of where the men had smashed wine bottles and other objects. In the community room, one of the intruders had tossed a glass vase into the wall with such force that it left a two-inch hole in the wall and embedded the black frame of a photo of Deacon Ed Read with glass shards.

Anything with a lock on it was ripped open.

“They were obviously looking for money, but we don’t keep any here,” Spicer said.

Windows and doors were boarded up with plywood on Thursday.

The intruders had entered the church through a back door and rummaged through the community kitchen. They threw a convection oven and a mixer to the floor and broke ceramic items. One picked up a pasta bowl and threw it through a glass door.

From there, they made their way through the church, leaving footprints where they kicked doors or walls.

Inside the chapel, they smashed the heavy bowl that contained holy water. They also tipped over chairs and pushed over the organ.

They got into the sacristy and threw items on the ground and damaged an essencer.

“That’s the only sacred object they damaged,” Spicer said.

After that, Firth and McLaughlin entered an adjacent classroom building through a window and continued their path of destruction there.

“This was, frustratingly enough, a mean-spirited break-in; vandalizing the church,” said Langley Police Chief Bob Herzberg.

An early estimate puts the damage at roughly $5,000, Herzberg added.

Numerous windows at the church will need to be replaced, as well as a glass door to the main building.

The men were later linked to a break-in at The Braeburn Restaurant that happened just few hours earlier.

At about 10:45 p.m. Wednesday, Langley Police Officer Randy Heston and Island County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Davis responded to a call from a neighbor who had heard the sound of breaking glass near the Braeburn.

“Looking into the building, they saw footprints,” Herzberg said.

The officers began processing the scene and found that several items were missing, among them, some wine bottles that would later become important evidence.

“At the Braeburn, basically they only stole wine. Wine bottles were recovered at the church that helped link the two incidents together,” Herzberg said.

The officers were still working at the Braeburn on Second Street when another tip from the public led them to St. Hubert on Third Street. Somebody had reported hearing a window break just before 1 a.m. Thursday morning.

“They (the officers) both were up there in two minutes,” Herzberg said. “They arrested the two while they were still at the church.

“Both were visibly intoxicated, possibly under the influence of drugs,” Herzberg added.

Spicer explained that drugs may have been the fuel for the rampage.

“The thing is if you have meth in you, you’ve got that kind of rage,” he said.

Both men claimed to be homeless, but Herzberg said both have family ties on the South End.

At least one has been arrested before, he said.

According to the Island County Prosecutor’s Office, Firth and McLaughlin are being held on $25,000 bail for investigation of two counts of second-degree burglary.

The latest incident is the continuation of an unusual influx of crime in Langley. Since March, a dozen commercial or public places have been hit.

All locations are within less than five minutes walking distance in the heart of Langley.

“This is unlike anything that I have experienced in the 29 years I’ve been here,” Herzberg said.

This week’s crime spree came only three weeks to the day after a string of burglaries at six Langley businesses in the downtown business area. An unknown suspect or suspects hit the Chef’s Pantry, the Fish Bowl Restaurant, Karaman Custom Upholstery and All Washed Up Laundromat and also tried to break into Joe’s Island Music and Cannon/Bullock. Not much was stolen except for lots of change and bags of steaks, seafood and liquor from the Fish Bowl.

No one has been arrested in connection with those crimes and Herzberg said the break-ins are still under investigation.

Only days before the April 10 burglaries, a Langley police officer arrested a suspect for attempting to break into Quilting by the Sea on Second Street.

The suspect, Scott Watts, is due back in court May 5 for his arraignment.

A month before that, somebody broke into the Moonraker Bookstore and an adjacent clothing store.

Herzberg said Thursday’s arrests were made due to the alertness of Langley residents who reported the crimes and the collaboration between Langley police and the Island County Sheriff’s Office.

However, Herzberg cautioned that even though an arrest was made, it is possible another burglar could target Langley at any time.

He advised residents to report any suspicious activity and take extra precautions, such as leaving lights on and making sure doors are locked.

Meanwhile, parishioners at St. Hubert Catholic Church have helped clean up much of the damage.

In fact, just hours after the incident, Spicer held a funeral at the church.

“I was woken by neighbors at 2:30 a.m. Together we came to the church. The church was ready for worship at 8 o’clock,” Spicer said.

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