The number of Latter-day Saint churches that police believe were vandalized by the same person or people last month in Salt Lake County now stands at a dozen.
Sometime between 5 p.m. on Aug. 15 and 9 a.m. on Aug. 16, a person or group of people spray-painted similar messages on 12 meetinghouses of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in mainly the southeast end of Salt Lake County.
"All the cases appear to be related and completed by the same suspect(s)," according to police.
Originally, it was reported that six churches in Sandy were hit with graffiti. But by Aug. 17, detectives had accounted for more vandalism cases: seven in Sandy, two in Draper, one in Cottonwood Heights, one in Murray, and one church in the Granite community east of Sandy, according to Sandy police.
Police had been looking at a vandalism at a meetinghouse in Orem that may have been connected, but Sandy police detectives no longer think that incident is tied to the others because the method of the vandalism in that case was different. In the dozen cases in Salt Lake County, there were no forced entries into the buildings like there was in Orem.
Similar phrases were spray-painted using black and red paint on the exterior of the meetinghouses in Salt Lake County, such as, "Predator Welcome," "Hypocrites" and "Matthew 18:6," a biblical passage that talks about harm coming to those who abuse children.
The vandalism came on the heels of an Aug. 4 story by the Associated Press about the church's abuse helpline and a case of child sexual abuse in Arizona. In a lengthy response, a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said the AP story contained "gross" and "egregious errors."
Following the discovery of the vandalism, the church released another prepared statement, saying, "We are saddened by the vandalism which has occurred to various church meetinghouses in the Salt Lake Valley. Our church buildings are places of worship and community gathering where all are welcome. We are working with local police as they conduct their investigation into who is responsible."
As of Wednesday, no arrests had been made and no suspects have been identified.
The vandalisms believed to be tied to the suspect or suspects occurred at:
- 275 E. 10600 South
- 2130 E. 10000 South
- 8735 S. Harvard Park Drive
- 10975 S. Prescott Drive
- 1478 E. 8600 South
- 2080 E. Pinecrest Lane
- 1280 E. Turquoise Way
- 2895 E. Creek Road
- 1617 E. Richins Road
- 11777 S. Willow Wood Drive
- 1830 E. 6400 South
- 9880 S. 3100 East
Anyone with information about the vandalisms is asked to call police at 801-799-3000 or 801-840-4000.