Fingerprints help police identify church burglar

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin police have issued an arrest warrant for a man suspected of burglarizing The Great Hills Baptist Church in North Austin.

According to arrest affidavits, 37-year-old Samuel Watkins broke into the church and ransacked several offices back in April 2013.

Great Hills Baptist Church Pastor Terry Hurt reported to police that several American Express gift cards, an Apple iPad, an acoustic guitar, and an Apple laptop were all stolen.

“He left carrying a guitar case and he had a backpack that he had either found or brought with him that was stuffed full of various things,” said Hurt.

Austin Police say Watkins was arrested for breaking into Saint Matthew’s Episcopal Church twice back in 2011.

They say he’s a main suspect in two other burglaries at the Hillcrest Baptist Church in 2012 and at Greater Calvary Bible Church in 2013.

“There aren’t too many church burglars,” said APD Burglary Detective Steven Beasley. “They are a small group, very few burglars will choose a religious establishment.”

After comparing Watkins mugshots to surveillance video taken at the church, APD was able to connect him to The Great Hills Baptist Church crime.

Fingerprints from the scene of the burglary also positively connected Watkins to the church burglary. Police are now searching the Austin area to arrest Watkins.

“He rides the buses and heads north and south,” Beasley said. “Most of the burglaries in his history have been up north, but he has been seen down at The Arch.”

After the disbelief, Hurt says this is now a chance to practice what he preaches.

“We do care about him,” says Hurt. “We do pray for him, we hope he will turn to the Lord and find forgiveness…we’ve forgiven him.”

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