Thieves snatch keys, cars from churches

Casey Grove

Anchorage police are investigating the thefts of two vehicles from church parking lots the past two Sundays. In both cases, the thief took the owners' keys and jackets, which had left hanging in coat rooms, police said.

After attending the morning service at All Saints Episcopal Church downtown, a woman reported her jacket, keys and silver 2009 Toyota Yaris missing. An Alaska State Trooper found the car in Bodenburg Creek in Butte with front end and water damage, said police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker.

"They found it very shortly after it was taken," Parker said. "We're assuming it just offered the thief a ride to the Valley."

A week later, on O'Malley Road at Saint John United Methodist Church, a thief snatched a man's coat and keys in a coat room, then stole his blue 2006 Chevrolet Silverado from the parking lot. Officers are still looking for the pickup, which has a red camper shell over its bed, Parker said.

The pickup's owners, Robert Hays and his wife Robin, were attending the church's 9:30 a.m. service, a celebration of its 50-year anniversary, Hays said.

When it came time to leave, Hays couldn't find his coat. He assumed someone had taken it by mistake. Then he saw the empty parking spot where his pickup had been.

"That just hits you like a ton of bricks," said Hays, who's attended the church since he was a child in the '60s. "As soon as I saw it was missing, I immediately knew why my coat was missing."

"That's the last thing you expect to happen there," he said. "You let your guard down a little. You're among friends and family."

Just before heading to work in a rental car Tuesday, Hays said he was keeping his fingers crossed that the pickup is found soon.

Parker, the police spokesman, said it's so far unknown if the same person or persons stole both vehicles. Still, it's common for a thief to use the same technique more than once, he said. And while police are not sure exactly how the thief matched the keys he or she stole to the correct vehicle, Parker pointed to the possibility that a keyless entry system was used.

"If a person has the door clicker, you push that, and the one that the lights come on and the doors unlock," he said. "That's the one you hop in and drive away."

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the missing Chevrolet pickup can call police at 786-8900 or by contacting their local authorities.


Reach Casey Grove at or 257-4589.