Four young members of the Air Force have been arrested and charged with malicious injury to house of worship after they allegedly spray-painted satanic symbols on a 250-year-old South Carolina church.
In September, satanic symbols and phrases were spray painted on the columns of Salem Black River Presbyterian Church, built in 1846, causing about $3,000 in damage. The front door to the church also had been kicked in, but the interior was undamaged.
The suspects, arrested Thursday, are 18-year-old Kayla Eilerman of Ingleside, Texas; 18-year-old Clayre Savage of Port Barre, Louisiana; 19-year-old Daveion Green of Leeland, North Carolina; and 20-year-old Brandon Munoz of Baltimore. All are charged with trespassing, malicious injury to a house of worship and criminal conspiracy, Sumter County Sheriff's spokesman Ken Bell said.
The property is posted and there are signs warning that anyone caught on the property, with the exception of attending church services or activities, will be charged, according to Bell. Still, he said the department has had to deal with other problems caused by people who say the church is haunted.
"Several tips came in from the community, including from Shaw AFB personnel who gave us the names of possible suspects," Bell said in a statement. 'We began researching the names through various databases and social media."
The suspects face a minimum of six months in prison if convicted of the malicious injury charge. All four suspects were given a $15,000 bond.
"The United States Air Force does not condone acts of vandalism," 1st Lt. Alannah Staver, spokeswoman for the 20th Fighter Wing, said in a statement. "Such behavior is not representative of the Airmen of Shaw AFB as a whole. We feel we are a part of this community, are proud to serve here, and we are disappointed to hear of this incident."
Salem Black River Presbyterian Church was founded by Scotch-Irish settlers in 1759, and was one of about a dozen houses of worship on a list kept by Dylann Roof as he researched where he wanted to commit his racist massacre in 2015, according to the MailOnline. Roof, who killed nine worshippers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, has been sentenced to death.
This is not the first time this year a church has been desecrated with satanic symbols; in January, New Covenant Church in Long Island church was spray painted with "devil worship," upside down crosses, cursing messages and witchcraft hexes.
"If somebody came and painted your house up with satanic symbols, I think you'd be disturbed too, because you don't know who they are and you don't know if they would come back," said pastor Rob Taormina.
"Whoever it is, we are praying that God will just reach out to them and touch them," Taormina said.