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Deputies arrest suspect in church burglaries




Monitor Editor

A spokesperson for the Clay County Sheriff’s Office said deputies arrested a man they say burgled several Keystone Heights churches in December.  The sheriff’s office charged Steven Jeffery Hardwick, 54, of Middleburg with five counts of burglary.  According to arrest reports, Hardwick broke into Community Christian Church on Dec. 7, Fresh Start Fellowship on Dec. 8 and  the  Keystone Heights Church of Christ on Dec. 9.

Deputies also wrote in the reports that Hardwick broke into the Asbury Methodist Church on March 19 and April 15 and St. Giles Presbyterian Church in Orange Park on April 16.

According to the reports, Hardwick left behind two cigarette butts in the Fresh Start building, and an FDLE analyst matched DNA left on the butts to Hardwick’s.  The state agency had the suspect’s DNA on file because he had been in prison.

At the Church of Christ, Hardwick left more incriminating evidence, including a survey form with his name, date of birth and social security number on the form.

In the three Keystone Heights churches, the suspect took little of value and appeared to limit the criminal activity to vandalism and snack theft.

Deputies claimed, however, that further north Hardwick made off with gift cards and cash from the Asbury church and used them to purchase merchandise at a Walmart store.

At the Asbury Methodist Church, deputies said Hardwick stole $1,375 worth of cash and gift cards.  Walmart surveillance cameras then caught him using the cards to buy cigarettes, toiletry items and food.

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