Hartford man charged with vandalizing church found guilty

HARTFORD (WITI) — Joshua Wendt, the Hartford man charged with two counts of criminal damage to religious property for allegedly vandalizing a church in Washington County, was found guilty of one count of criminal damage to religious property Monday, July 15th. The second count was dismissed. Wendt is due back in court on September 4th for a sentence hearing.

The criminal complaint against Wendt indicates that early on Friday, March 15th, Wendt had broken into the First Baptist Church in Hartford. Officers arriving on the scene around 3 a.m. found “two fire extinguishers, one lying on the steps right outside the main entrance and another fire extinguisher lying in the roadway.”

When officers walked into the church, the complaint indicates they noticed fire extinguisher dust sprayed around a conference room as well as a hallway where pews were being stored. There were also “numerous broken pieces of glass lying on the floor which were the remnants of a stain glass window.” It appears multiple stained glass windows were broken or severely damaged.

The complaint indicates the damage from the vandalism includes: $80,000 for stained glass windows, $2,000 for three nursery windows, $1,000 for a stained glass door, $2,000 for a canopy over the front door, $400 for two fire extinguishers, $2,000 for nursery toys and linens damaged, and $1,000 for kitchen supplies. All were damaged, smashed, or covered in glass and fire extinguisher dust — and could no longer be used.

“Everything in the building was coated. We had to wipe down and vacuum and clean everything in the building,” Allan MacDougall said.

An investigation into the vandalism identified Wendt as the suspect. When police interviewed Wendt, the complaint indicates he had been drinking that evening. Wendt told police “he has flashback memories and remembered a fire extinguisher, pews and a playroom.” But Wendt told police he thought it was all “just a dream.”

The complaint also says Wendt later “stated he remembers smashing the windows but didn’t remember which windows had been smashed out.”

“I have not sensed any anger. There`s been a lot of concern — a lot of people praying for him, wondering what happened, what`s going on in his life and stuff,” MacDougall said.

On Wednesday evening, church members were back inside the church thanks to a massive cleanup effort.

“Literally we had to vacuum four times to get everything up — with the white powder. It was 50 people working through the night to take care of it,” Barb Peters said.

If convicted, Wendt faces up to three-and-a-half years in prison and $10,000 in fines.