Update: How accused church vandal was caught | Crime
SALISBURY - He is accused of spray painting vicious messages of hate, and ransacking churches and other properties in three counties.
The damage was so bad it caused church members to weep openly when they first saw the damage.
Now investigators say they have the man responsible for the rash of vandalism.
Bryan Matthew Balser, 21, of Albemarle, was arrested at a hotel in China Grove early on Friday morning. He is now in the Rowan County Detention Center, being held under $58,500 bond, facing charges of injuring buildings, injury to personal property, carrying a concealed gun, and breaking and entering.
Balser is charged in the Rowan County cases, and also in Anson County where some of the worst damage was found.
Balser was initially developed as a suspect several months ago, according to investigators. He has a criminal record that includes drug charges in Salisbury. At the time of that arrest Balser's van was impounded at a storage lot. Investigators searched the van and found what they believe to be a microphone taken from one of the vandalized churches in Anson County.
Balser was released from jail on the drug charges in February, but then dropped out of sight, failing to appear on court dates and for his probation appointments.
On Thursday police in China Grove were called to the Center Hotel on a disturbance call. They found Balser there, and when they checked his name for outstanding warrants, they contacted the SBI and brought the charges that dealt with the church vandalism in Rowan and the damage to the Warrior Golf Course.
Balser was found with Danny Huneycutt. Huneycutt was arrested on drugs and weapons charges, but not in relation to the vandalism cases.
In Rowan County, Balser is charged with the damage to Organ Lutheran Church and the Warrior Golf Club. It was on a Wednesday morning in November that church members discovered spray painted messages covering the outside walls of the sanctuary and the old church building.
The messages were signs and symbols associated with devil worship, such as the number 666, and images of pentagrams and upside down crosses.
Investigators also found the letters “SWA” painted on the church. Those same letters are tattooed on Balser’s leg.
Around the same time the owner of the Warrior Golf Course discovered damage at that business. Lights were ripped up from walkways, flags ripped down, and swastikas and other symbols were spray painted on the grounds.
Investigators said Friday that more charges are likely for Balser, as well as more arrests in the case.
The vandalism spree came to light in Anson County, and Balser has now been charged by the sheriff's department in that county for burning a cross inside a church, as well as other vandalism.
At the Cedar Hill AME Zion Church, Balser, or someone with him, ripped a child's gravestone from the cemetery and threw it through a window, according to investigators. Once inside, the kitchen and sanctuary were torn apart. Pictures on the walls were smashed on the floor, pews were overturned, and human feces was left on the church altar. Racist and hateful messages were also spray painted inside and outside of the small cinderblock building.
Church members were resilient, and the community rallied around the vandalized churches with offers of money and use of space for services.