Deputies arrest man for theft from church

Published 1:32 pm Monday, June 27, 2016

A Washington Parish man was recently arrested in connection with a theft of an air-conditioning unit from a local church.

Chief Deputy Mike Haley of the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office said that a Washington Parish church located on Highway 10 between Bogalusa and Franklinton recently reported the theft of its central air-conditioning unit. It was reported that the thief also attempted to gain entry into the locked church building at the same time.

Patrol deputies took the initial report and soon thereafter recovered the air-conditioning unit, which had been sold to a third party. Evidence connected Ernest Joseph Lester, 33, a resident of Highway 10, to the theft and attempted entry.

After Lester was identified, a patrol sergeant spotted him at a Franklinton gas station and arrested him without incident Monday. Lester was placed in the Washington Parish Jail with bond set at $12,500 on charges of theft, attempted simple burglary of a religious building, criminal damage and fugitive.

Lester has a history of theft and drug related offenses and is well known to the Sheriff’s Office, Haley said.

“Kudos to our patrol division for solving this crime within 48 hours,” Sheriff Randy Seal said. “Our patrol officers took the initial report, recovered the stolen property and arrested the thief, all within a few hours. They did an excellent job and I thank them for all they do. When you see one of them working in the parish, I encourage you to thank them also. They are hard-working officers who patrol our parish day and night to help keep us safe.

“I’m pleased that the unit was recovered and the church can once again have services during these hot summer months in a cool building. This fine congregation and pastor deserves better than to suffer at the hands of a thief.”