MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Police Department District 2 officers and South Investigations detectives have identified and arrested two suspects who are believed to be responsible for a burglary on Monday, Aug. 19 at St. Anthony Church, 1711 S. 9th St., according to a press release.
Ricky J. Skelton, 31, has been charged with burglary, a felony, while the District Attorney has pended charges against the 55-year-old male co-actor.
The 31-year-old and 55-year-old took several antique gold and brass candleholders “valued by church staff at about $80,000,” and sold them for scrap for $100, it said.
“The person who purchased them led the officers to one of the suspects, who was arrested on August 22. The 31-year-old male suspect confessed to detectives that he and another suspect took the candleholders from the church and carried them into a nearby alley, where they smashed the marble off of them to make them fit into a garbage can that they used to take them to a metal buyer they knew,” according to the release, which noted the 55-year-old suspect was arrested on Aug. 23.
Fr. Cliff Ermatinger, pastor of St. Anthony Parish, told your Catholic Herald that he was with a family that had invited him to dinner that night when he received a text from a parish employee informing him of the situation.
While what happened was sad, he said was thankful for the dedication of the District 2 police, who he said were “outstanding” even though they were already preoccupied with shootings, stabbings and a suicide attempt that night.
“Extra police took interest as well just because they felt this was such an assault on the community,” Fr. Ermatinger told your Catholic Herald. “They were so dedicated.”
Fr. Ermatinger said he and Fr. Erich Weiss, associate pastor at St. Anthony, along with the sacristan, were up until 2 a.m. on Tuesday looking for pieces of the “beautiful” candlesticks that were obtained decades ago – the police were able to obtain finger prints from the broken marble bits they found.
“The value that they have is not only the sacrifice of those, the people that a long time ago used their money to buy these beautiful things for worship, but this is a patrimony of the parish and so our people felt it deeply as an assault on God’s house and on this patrimony that is really in a sense nobody’s property,” Fr. Ermatinger said.
They plan to increase the church security and come up with new policies and procedures to protect it, including locking the doors earlier.
“We were all relieved that there wasn’t any vandalism or clear desecration other than the theft,” he said.
They’re also going to be more vigilant.
“There is definitely a heightened vigilance, and we warned our parishioners, too — beware of anybody who’s coming in maybe during Mass time but is clearly not going to Mass or somebody who has been hanging around,” Fr. Ermatinger said, noting they’ve asked parishioners to contact the parish office or one of the priests if they see anything suspicious.
“It’s a shame we can’t have the church open all day for prayer,” Fr. Ermatinger said. “That’s something I would love to be able to do, but that’s just not realistic.” Tracy Rusch, Catholic Herald Staff