Newton sheriff: Church burglary suspects confess

By Staff
STOLEN PROPERTY Newton County Sheriff Jackie Knight searches through a pile of stolen property, including this silverware, confiscated from a pair of suspects he arrested Sunday night. The two are suspected in a string of church and home burglaries in Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama. Photo by Fredie Carmichael/The Meridian Star
By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
June 17, 2003
Newton County Sheriff Jackie Knight said Wesley Gilbert used a black ink pen and a worn Mississippi road map on Monday to pinpoint areas where he and his partner robbed churches and homes.
Knight said Gilbert, 31, of Alabama, and his alleged accomplice, Tina Roberts, 30, of Florida, confessed to at least eight burglaries around the South.
Knight said that Gilbert indicated he was involved in burglaries that occurred in Memphis, Horn Lake, Corinth, Newton County, Smith County, Lauderdale County and other counties.
Burglary charges
Gilbert and Roberts were charged Monday with four counts of burglary of a church in Newton County. Knight said that Gilbert also is wanted by the U.S. Marshal's Office for parole violation.
Gilbert and Roberts were expected to appear before a Newton County judge today and possibly enter a plea.
Knight was on patrol of the county's churches Sunday night when he spotted the two suspects in a red pick-up truck. After a brief chase, Knight and other deputies captured them.
Knight said the arrests ended a month-long attempt to find the suspects, who the sheriff said may have been preying on small Baptist churches in Newton, Lauderdale and surrounding counties.
Gilbert and Roberts were initially charged with the robbery of Oakland Baptist Church, Blue Springs Baptist Church, Liberty Baptist Church and Center Ridge Baptist Church all in Newton County.
Confiscated items
Sheriff's deputies confiscated jewelry, stolen credit cards, an amplifier and other sound equipment from the truck Gilbert was driving.
Later, Lauderdale County law officers searched a motel room at the Royal Inn in Meridian where the two had been staying. They also searched a white Thunderbird parked outside the room.
Knight said officers confiscated a drum set, a sound system, microphones, silverware, albums and other equipment.
The sheriff said his department will now began searching area pawn shops to find the rest of the stolen property.
Working together
Local law enforcement officers have been working together for months trying to find the suspects.
Ward Calhoun, a Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department spokesman, said his department had been working with Knight and Newton County sheriff's deputies for the past month.
The red truck was first seen in Lauderdale County this month after the burglary of Providence Baptist Church. Calhoun said the sheriff's department gave the description of the truck to Knight, who saw it Sunday.
Knight said he's just happy Gilbert and Roberts were captured.

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