PARAGON, Ind. -- Two people are charged in connection with stealing a church bus and setting it on fire. Morgan County investigators charged 18-year-old Tyler Lewis and a juvenile with the crime.
Earlier this summer, Pastor Rick Finney showed up to New Life Christian Church to take a group of kids to the pool. Pastor Finney discovered the bus was missing. Hours later, detectives found the church bus torched in a field.
“I just burst into tears,” said Pastor Rick Finney, with New Life Christian Church.
Court papers show other names redacted of kids also involved.
“We want the boys to know that we are not mad at them, we know that God has a plan for their lives,” said Pastor Rick Finney.
Investigators believe the group could be connected to a couple of stolen golf carts and a handful of ATV’s in the area, one which was supposedly stolen the same night as the bus.
Lewis told investigators the joyride in the bus only lasted 10 minutes and they torched the bus to destroy evidence.
“(We) absolutely forgive them. Even before we knew who it was, we forgave them the first day,” said Pastor Finney.
The Paragon community got to work as soon as it heard that the church’s bus was destroyed. Within 15 days, $15,000 was raised.
“It came from Chicago, Illinois, Phoenix, Arizona, Gary, Indiana, it just came from everywhere,” said Pastor Finney.
The church quickly had enough money to buy a new bus, which is now covered in nearly 400 hand prints, all of people who helped.
“A community doesn’t really know how strong they are until adversity comes,” said Pastor Finney.
Pastor Finney wants Lewis and the rest of the group to be held accountable for their actions.
“You’re going to learn a lesson and it’s going to be for good then yes, they probably do need to be charged,” said Pastor Finney.
The church also wants to make sure this group of suspects to know they are forgiven and they are also welcome.
“So if they would come and be a part of our youth group or be a part of our service we would love that,” said Pastor Finney.
Lewis is facing a long list of felony charges including theft, burglary and arson.