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Thieves steal bell, other items from 134-year-old church

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POWHATAN COUNTY, Va. -- Thieves have targeted a historic church under renovation in Powhatan County.

But they’ve not only been stealing copper, members of St. James Baptist Church said the crooks have also made off with sentimental items and the 134-year-old church’s bell.

"I'm mad. I'm hurt. And I feel hopeless,” Randa Jackson, a parishioner at St. James Baptist Church, said. "I don't believe for one second it's a member of our church. I think it's somebody just sitting around watching our progress."

Jackson said hurricanes over the past few years damaged the church's foundation and roof. As a result, county officials and the church's insurance company deemed the structure unsound, so it had to be demolished.

St. James Baptist Church

St. James Baptist Church

The thefts are a major setback for parishioners. Jackson fought back tears as she described the sentimental items, like the church's iconic bell, that were pilfered.

"When I think about what they took, some things that can't be replaced, it burns me to my core,” Jackson said.

Along with the sentimental items, Jackson said sheetrock and gravel were taken too. And just last week, thieves swiped $500 worth of copper piping from inside the building.

CBS 6 News researched the number of copper thefts in Powhatan County. According to the sheriff's office, there were more than a dozen reported in 2012 (13) compared to just six in 2013. And so far in 2014, there were six reported cases.

Even after everything that has happened, church leaders like Able Harris, the board of trustees chairman, have decided to turn the other cheek.

"Pray for those that did it," Harris said. "And be thankful that no one was here when they came."

 Randa Jackson

"Every time you take from us. It sets us back,” Jackson said. "Leave us alone. Let us build our church. Let us restore it and be back in our sanctuary, so we can worship the Lord."

Despite what happened, church leaders told CBS 6 News that they are thankful that the community has donated materials and volunteered to help rebuild their beloved church.

If you have information that could help investigators, call the Powhatan Sheriff’s Office at 804-598-5652 or Crime Solvers at 804-403-4357.

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