CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Three area Catholic churches are missing their collection boxes. They've been stolen - pulled off the walls of sanctuaries while services were in progress.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police (CMPD) now has its eyes on one prime suspect.
Surveillance video from a Saturday evening service at St. Matthew Catholic in Ballantyne shows a group of kids leaving the chapel and headed to the Sanctuary.
While they leave, a young woman dressed in a tracksuit waits for everyone to leave, then takes a seat in a rear pew.
Mounted on the wall near her is a candle offering box. There are two of these locked boxes containing cash contributions.
"She scoped this place out very well, to know where these boxes were," said CMPD Detective Brandon Miller.
After checking the door to see if the coast is clear, she goes straight to work to free the collection box from the wall.
"She used some type of pry tool that was probably made specifically for pulling things off sheetrock or this type of material," Detective Miller said.
Those boxes are expensive, costing $400 each. And they're heavy, weighing a good 10 to 15 pounds. We see her put the boxes under a pew until she finds a big cardboard box to carry both out. Police believe there may be an accomplice.
"She had to have had some help because, again, those boxes are very heavy," Miller said.
We also have still pictures from a similar theft at St. Mark Catholic Church in Huntersville. Is it the same woman?
"Judging from the videos and the still photos we have, it looks like the same person - a younger black female, maybe in her early 20s," said the detective.
And she's also suspected of robbing St. John Neuman Catholic on Idlewild just days later.
So why is she hitting Catholic churches?
"I think Catholic churches because they are known for raising a lot of money for whatever cause they have going on," Miller explained.
Detective Miller's advice to all churches is to make sure someone shepherds any collection boxes, keeping an eye on them and removing the cash promptly.
If you know this young church thief, please call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600 and we may just bless your day with a reward.