LOCAL NEWS

2 men face 2 dozen criminal charges in Utah County church burglaries

Jan 16, 2024, 12:56 PM

courtroom gavel...

Two men now face criminal charges tying them to a rash of burglaries at several meetinghouses of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Eagle Mountain in September. (Pixabay)

(Pixabay)

EAGLE MOUNTAIN — Two men now face criminal charges tying them to a rash of burglaries at several meetinghouses of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Eagle Mountain in September.

Lee Pierce Baker, 20, of South Jordan, and Daxton Layne Rushworth, 18, of West Valley City, were each charged last week in 4th District Court with two dozen crimes, including 10 counts of burglary and nine counts of property damage, third-degree felonies; four counts of theft, a class A misdemeanor and three class B misdemeanors; and an additional count of property damage, a class B misdemeanor.

On Sept. 24, the Utah County Sheriff’s Office received eight reports of church burglaries in Eagle Mountain.

“A representative from the LDS Church stated the exterior doors and the interior office doors were damaged. (He) reported someone rummaged through the offices and the desk drawers in the offices in each of the churches,” according to charging documents. “At one LDS church an Asus Vivobook valued at $700, a docking station valued at $80, a Microsoft Surface Tablet valued at $300, and a SentrySafe valued at $50 were taken.”

Several other churches burglarized

As deputies were investigating the break-ins, they learned of two more meetinghouses in Eagle Mountain that were burglarized the same night. Deputies then learned that there were “many more” Latter-day Saint meetinghouses that were burglarized in Utah and Salt Lake counties.

An investigator compared notes with detectives from the Lehi, South Jordan and Herriman police departments who had similar burglaries in their cities, and learned that police had identified several suspects, including Rushworth, the charges state.

On Dec. 20, Utah County sheriff’s detectives interviewed Rushworth.

“Daxton advised only he and Pierce came to Utah County where they began breaking into churches. Daxton advised they would find a side door that he described as a maintenance door and would kick the door handle. … Daxton advised after entering the church, they would go for the bishop’s doors and gain access in a similar manner. Daxton advised they did not spend much time in the buildings and they were only entering the churches to find items to steal,” according to court documents. “Pierce would take the items back to his home and would try to sell them online.”

After collecting several pieces of evidence, including DNA samples and shoe prints, and after serving a search warrant at Baker’s residence, Baker was arrested on Jan. 4.

Baker is scheduled to be in court Tuesday. Rushworth’s initial court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 23.

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2 men face 2 dozen criminal charges in Utah County church burglaries