Church Recovers Silver Stolen by Repentant Thief

Jeremy Rayburn, 24, was arrested for the break-in at St. Michael's by-the-Sea Episcopal Church

A church in Carlsbad has recovered all its silver stolen during a February break-in after the suspect was pulled over for an expired license plate.

Carlsbad police say Jeremy Rayburn, 24, broke into the St. Michael’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in the 2700 block of Carlsbad Boulevard on Feb. 18. That was Ash Wednesday, a holy day for many Christians.

During the burglary, the onyx tabernacle and communion hosts were smashed, and more than a dozen silver chalices and decanters were taken.

“Lord have mercy,” said Rev. Doran Stambaugh, the church’s rector. “I mean, who breaks into a church and steals all this stuff?”

On Sunday, a San Diego County Sheriff’s deputy pulled Rayburn over in Vista for expired plates, but he soon arrested him on suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana and heroin.

As the deputy investigated, he noticed some unusual items in Rayburn’s trunk. He saw they were inscribed with “St. Michael’s Church.”

The deputy called a Carlsbad Police detective, who helped confirm the silver did belong to the church. They say Rayburn confessed to breaking into St. Michael’s.

“He said that he had been driving around with the material in his car for 19 days and felt that pawning it was just as bad as stealing it,” said sheriff’s spokeswoman Jan Caldwell.

He was arrested and booked into the Vista Detention Facility on suspicion of burglary and vandalism. He has since been released on bail and is scheduled to appear in court on March 17.

Rayburn also tried to make amends with the church, Stambaugh said, returning all the silver.

“He showed great courage to be able to stand there in front of me and say what he did and apologize in his way,” said the rector.

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