Crime Watch 8

Caught on camera, man grabs duffel bags from church after it helped him

KOKOMO, Ind. (WISH) -- Kokomo police have identified a man accused of stealing from local churches.

Police said 65-year-old William Cox Jr. would visit churches asking for help, but then take items when nobody was looking.

One of the churches the man is accused of targeting is Crossroads Community Church, 4254 S. 00 EW.

"It felt so unreal. I know that people steal things that don't belong to them, but to walk into a church, and the man was even wearing a cross around his neck, and to steal something just felt like it was a violation of the type that you wouldn't expect could be possible," said Kevin Smith, executive pastor at Crossroads.

He said the man came in around lunchtime on Jan. 30 when a lot of people were away from their desks.

Surveillance video showed him grabbing two duffel bags from the receptionist's area and then walking out.

When that video was reviewed church leaders realized they recognized the man. He had just been in a few days earlier asking for help.

"He had just said he was here in Kokomo and had an emergency and needed to go back to Indianapolis and didn't have any money to buy gas, and wanted help ... for us to get him back to Indianapolis," Smith said.

The church regularly helps people in need, so they offered him a gas card. Per procedure, they took a copy of his license for their records. At that time, they did not know the man would be back and would later be accused of stealing from them.

"Procedures are important. Had we not taken the steps we had taken, we would have never known who this individual is," Smith said.

The pastor said one more thing that surprised them about this case was that the bags were returned. Somebody found them outside by a side door of the church a few days later. One was a child's overnight bag, the other had personal belongings including a checkbook. Nothing was missing from either bag.

"We prayed for God to change his heart, and I believe God did," Smith said.

So far, it is unclear how many other churches may have been targeted.

Online jail records show William Cox Jr. was arrested in Marion County on an unrelated charge of operating a motor vehicle after forfeiture of license.

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