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Pair face charges for trashing Hawley church

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Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Two men are accused in Clay County District Court of vandalizing a Hawley church and bragging about trashing it.

Deputies were called to Solem Lutheran Church in rural Hawley July 11.

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According to court documents:

Officers found broken glass and tipped over candles, including an "eternal flame' candle that leaked wax on a Bible and areas of the altar.

A vase had been thrown through sheetrock, breaking the vase and leaving a hole in the sheetrock.

A pickup truck found stuck in a nearby slough was linked to Nathan Paul Gibson, 19, of West Fargo.

Gibson told an investigator that he and a friend, Tyrone Jon Merkens, 20, of Hawley, broke into the church and damaged it.

Merkens told authorities the two had been drinking vodka and were very intoxicated at the time.

A friend the two called to pick them up told authorities Gibson and Merkens ran out of the church bragging about how they had "trashed" it, court documents state.

Gibson and Merkens each face one count of second-degree burglary and first-degree criminal damage to property.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

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