Church theft suspect stole baby bottles filled with church donations, police say

- A Lake Wales man was arrested for stealing baby bottles filled with money from a church, police said.

On June 18, according to the Lake Wales Police Department, a staff member for the First Baptist Church, located at 338 East Central Avenue, noticed 59-year-old Burley Howard walking around inside the church.

Police said he was later located walking in the alley on the north end of the church carrying a box. He told the staff member there was food inside, but when the employee looked inside, there were 30 baby bottles used for a fundraiser. It contained coins, cash and personal checks that was worth $835.10. The money was meant to be used to support the pregnancy care program at the Lake Wales Care Center. 

After the staff member stopped him, Howard fled, but was located by police soon after. 

The baby bottles were available to church members on Mother’s Day and collected on Father’s Day, police said. Police said surveillance footage from the church shows Howard entering the church, then exiting with the baby bottles. 

Howard was arrested on a grand theft charge. Police said when he committed the alleged church theft, he was out of jail on bond for two counts of burglary, grand theft, and other charges. 

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