Lanham Sentenced in Church Burglary Case

Lanham Sentenced in Church Burglary Case

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A Salem man was sentenced Wednesday on felony burglary charges after police say he broke into a downtown church and stole several items, at least one of which he later pawned.

James Walter Lanham, 34, 200 block of Marshall Ave., was charged with burglary, a Level 5 felony, in connection with the January crime, said Washington County Prosecutor Dustin Houchin.

Yesterday Judge Larry Medlock sentenced Lanham to 10 and ½ years in the Indiana Department of Correction for the crime under an open plea agreement.

When Pastor Jason Bontrager arrived at Legacy Life Church, located on West Walnut Street, the morning of Jan. 24, he found the building had been broken into.

The assailant broke out a glass window on the west side of the church and entered, according to Bontrager.

Once inside, the assailant broke into a safe, kicked in an office door, and pilfered through items inside, stealing some things, according to the probable cause affidavit.

Among the items stolen were two iPads, a Fender guitar, Audio Tech headphones, two iPhones (both with cracked screens), a laptop computer, a wooden Takamine G Series guitar, a book of checks from Mid-Southern Savings Bank along with a debit card from that bank and a Capital One credit card in the church’s name.

Through their investigation, Salem City Police were able to determine that one of the guitars had been pawned in Louisville.

The person who listed the guitar was James Lanham and a driver’s license number for him was provided to shop personnel.

When police reviewed surveillance camera footage from Mid-Southern Savings Bank, they saw an individual using the Legacy Life debit card and withdrawing $320.

The person in the photos matched the BMV photo of Lanham. When interviewed by police about the incident, Lanham denied committing the crimes.

Lanham said on the night of Jan. 23 to early Jan. 24 he was driving around with his cousin.

He said the two parked at the Salem Public Library and that he stayed in the truck while his cousin left on foot.

Lanham admitted to pawning the guitar and using the debit card but said it was his cousin who asked him to do so.

When asked where the other items were, Lanham said they were at a building in Pekin.

He told police he had tried to help his cousin log onto one of the iPads.

The PC affidavit notes the police officer had never mentioned an iPad during the interview.

When library camera footage from the night of Jan. 23 was reviewed, police saw a male getting out of a Dodge Dakota that belonged to Lanham’s mother.

The male then walked away from the library and later returned.

There was only one male in the surveillance video, not two as Lanham had stated.

Legacy Life Church is located about a block from the library.

“I want to thank officer Chad Webb and the law enforcement officers that worked this case. Their excellent police work helped to sort out the facts of the case leading to the charges and sentence today,” said Prosecutor Dustin Houchin.

Lanham will serve the full sentence at the Indiana Department of Correction.