CRIME

2 charged in string of Utah County church burglaries face 12 more burglary charges

Jan 25, 2024, 5:51 PM | Updated: 7:07 pm

HERRIMAN — Two men accused of breaking into and burglarizing several meetinghouses of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah County are now facing charges accusing them of breaking into churches in Salt Lake County.

Lee Pierce Baker, 20, of South Jordan, and Daxton Layne Rushworth, 18, of West Valley City, were charged in 3rd District Court with causing property damage, a second-degree felony, and 12 counts of burglary of a building, a third-degree felony. A third person, Malachi Scott Guttierrez, 18, of Midvale, was also charged with the same crimes in Salt Lake County, but does not face charges in any of the Utah County burglaries.

Baker and Rushworth are already facing two similar cases in Utah County, where earlier this month, they were each charged in 4th District Court with a total of 33 crimes, accusing them of breaking into multiple churches in Eagle Mountain and Lehi.

As police were investigating the burglaries in Utah County, they learned many more similar burglaries were being investigated at Latter-day Saint meetinghouses in the south part of Salt Lake County.

According to newly filed charging documents, Baker and Guttierrez are accused of breaking into churches on Sept. 21 at:

  • 14172 S. Emmeline Drive
  • 13381 S. Pioneer Street
  • 6744 W. Valynn Drive
  • 12737 S. Pioneer Street
  • 6869 W. Vista Springs Drive
  • 7079 W. Rose Canyon Road
  • 14398 S. Knapper Point Cove
  • 13122 S. Herriman Rose Blvd.
  • 6980 W. McCuiston Avenue
  • 13768 S. Rose Canyon Road
  • 6593 W. Herriman Blvd.
  • 12682 S. Starlite Hill Lane

The total damage at those buildings was approximately $14,500, which was caused “by damaging several doorknobs to gain entry, damaging several doorknobs inside the buildings and damaging other property located inside the church buildings,” charging documents state.

After receiving a tip on the people who might have been involved in the burglaries, police questioned Guttierrez on Oct. 7. He told them that he, Baker and Rushworth would break into the buildings “and they would steal food, money and electronics if they appeared to be sellable,” the charges state.

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

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2 charged in string of Utah County church burglaries face 12 more burglary charges