OGDEN — Debris from the burned and smashed interior of an Ogden church piled high in a construction dumpster Tuesday as worshipers and workers took stock of the damage inflicted by vandals recently.
“They destroyed this place,” said Matthew Kalil, team lead for Paul Davis Restoration, a contractor cleaning up the desecration for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Shattered windows and doors yawned to the open air as the demolition crew tore out wrecked contents inside the meetinghouse at 550 E. 900 North in Ogden.
Bishop Jacob Bangerter, of the Mount Lewis 3rd Ward, said church functions have been moved to other meetinghouses in the area. The 4th Ward, which shared the building, also was relocated.
“I think it was handled well between the stake and the wards to coordinate all of that effort,” Bangerter said. “It happened on a Friday and by Sunday we were all ready to go at the other locations.”
Bangerter had been bishop of his northern Ogden ward for only about two weeks when the break-in occurred.
Maintenance workers arrived Friday to find broken doors and windows and smelled smoke inside. Several fires had been set.
Damage was estimated at $300,000, but Kalil said that in addition to the extensive wreckage, most of the church was damaged by smoke.
“It’s sad to see the destruction,” Bangerter said. “A lot of ward members have expressed willingness to forgive. We hope the individuals involved will learn from their negative impacts.”
Weber County prosecutors on Monday filed three felony charges against Michael Donovan Averett, 18, of Taylorsville. He faces counts of arson, burglary and criminal mischief. Bond was set at $20,000 and he was returned to the Weber County Jail after a court appearance Tuesday.
Ogden police also interviewed a second person, a male juvenile, in the case. It was not clear whether the juvenile has been charged.
“It’s nice to catch the individuals,” Bangerter said.
He added that the congregation showed no fear in the wake of the vandalism. “There wasn’t any of that. People are just wanting justice.”
Kalil and Tommy Whitaker, interviewed outside one of the smashed entryways, were disgusted by the scene, and one other thing.
“They defecated out here,” Kalil said, pointing to the concrete porch a few feet away. “We had to clean all of that up too.”
Charging documents against Averett made no mention of motive for the crimes, but Kalil thinks he knows.
“In my opinion, this is a hate crime, destroying someone’s church,” he said.
Kalil said options under consideration by church officials are to demolish the church, repair it or relocate the congregations.
Church spokeswoman Irene Caso said Tuesday afternoon the church has made no decisions yet on the extent of the project.
Tommy Whitaker, another restoration worker, shook his head at the senselessness of the vandalism.
“I’m not LDS, but I know there is not one religion that says it’s OK to go destroy someone’s church,” he said. “This is not the Renaissance.”