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Sheriff gives update in Callaway County church vandalism


The Callaway County sheriff said five people have been arrested in connection with a church that was vandalized in Callaway County.

Vandals hit Oakley Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church sometime between Jan. 22 and 23, Sheriff Clay Chism said last week and his office expects arrests in the case soon.

A week after the vandalism was first reported, deputies arrested Bradyn Holzhauser, 18, of Jefferson City; Matthew Myers, 17, of Jefferson City; Dylan Smith, 17, of Jefferson City and two 16-year-old juveniles for their involvement in the residential burglary/property damage to the church.

Five people have been arrested in connection with a church that was vandalized in Callaway County.

All five arrested face charges for felony offenses of burglary and property damage.

Holzhauser, Myers, and Smith were booked at the Callaway County Jail and have been released awaiting court hearings.

The juveniles were transferred to the 13th Circuit Court Juvenile Office and placed under the immediate supervision of local juvenile officers.

The 143-year-old church suffered smashed windows and other damage. The church was a part of life in Tebbetts and was founded by Black residents of Callaway County in 1878. It has been unused for several decades.

Alan Combs, a photographer in Fulton, said he loved visiting the church to learn about the history.

"I visited the site back in the fall and noticed how many graves were around the area and how hard it was to see many of them," Combs said.

He said when he visited the church, it allowed him to learn about people who were different than him and imagine what it would have been like to attend church there.

According to the National Register of Historic Places, the last event at the church was Oakley Chapel's annual basket supper in 2008. The event was held on the fourth Sunday of June, just as it had been for 130 years.

"The Oakley Chapel and its associated cemetery, mark one of the few intact African American-related properties in Southern Callaway County," according to the register.

Oakley Chapel was the second historically Black church in Callaway Couty to be hit by vandals over the past several weeks. Chism said in early December that his office arrested four teenagers for their roles in that vandalism. There's been no indication from Chism that the incidents are linked or that the churches were targeted because of their history.

Article Topic Follows: Crime
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Chanel Porter

Chanel joined ABC 17 News in January 2021 after graduating from Penn State University. She enjoys traveling and a daily iced coffee.


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