Pastor interrupts burglary

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LEWISTON – Pastor Paul McLaughlin thinks he may have interrupted a burglary – and maybe worse – just before midnight Tuesday as he groggily reset the Hope Haven Gospel Mission’s telephones.

“I was half-awake, and I just noticed that the outside door to the cellar had been left open,” he said. “I didn’t think anything about it. I just shut the door, plugged the phones in and went back up.”

He awoke the next morning to find several of the shelter’s power tools and other equipment sitting outside along Lincoln Street.

“It was like somebody was waiting to drive up and pick those things up,” he said. “I believe they were going to take those tools and who knows what else, when I came up and shut that door. Maybe I startled them.”

McLaughlin said he was getting ready for bed when he checked his cell phone’s voice mail. He lives in an apartment above the shelter, and said his mother had been trying to reach him on the shelter’s phone.

“The phone in my room was dead, so I checked the phone in the kitchen. And that was dead, too,” he said. He checked other phones in the building, only to discover that they were all dead.

He went down to the cellar to investigate and found a back door propped open with a 5-gallon jug of paint and all of the shelter’s phone lines had been unplugged.

He thinks the door might have been left unlatched earlier in the evening. He wasn’t sure what was taken, but said an assistant is missing some camping gear and thinks some lighter fluid was taken. The lighter fluid would have been used for the shelter’s July 4 barbecue.

“But someone also went through and stacked up a bunch of things under a tarp in the fuel room,” he said. They also switched off the breakers for the shelter’s outside floodlights.

“They did all that and unplugged our phones, and if that’s coincidental, it sure is peculiar,” he said. “I’d hate to think someone was trying to set a fire or do something like that. But if they were, the fuel room would have been the best place to do it.”

Police Sgt. David St. Pierre said police have no suspects and are still investigating.

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