Bounce houses recovered after being stolen from Hernando church

A week after giant inflatables were stolen from a church in Pasco County, the pricey items have been recovered.

Word of Life Church in Hudson rents out, or provides, the inflatables to groups for fairs and parties. They're worth about $14,000, but the smiles they produce are priceless.

The five inflatables and air pumps are stored in a trailer on Word of Life's sprawling campus. Church leaders did not suspect the items would become the targets of thieves. But Thursday, Oct. 24, surveillance cameras captured the whole trailer being towed away.

The church, which serves 30,000 people a year on its campus, had to cancel on five events at which the inflatables were promised.

Meanwhile, as the story spread on social media, a tip eventually got to Hernando County deputies. They found the trailer at a home in Weeki Wachee and charged Brandon Dexter with grand theft. 

“Just brazen, right? I mean, to steal it and then to drive away with it, in the morning, and then when you get it home to find out what was inside and say, ‘Oh, I think I’ll just set one of these up.’ That’s pretty brazen to me," said church director Rich Andrews. "Obviously, whoever that person is felt like they had gotten away with it.”

Andrews said he does not hold ill will toward the suspect and does not subscribe to the belief bad people do bad things.

"Maybe one day, hopefully, I will be able to have a conversation with him," said Andrews. "I would love to talk with him, and I would love to see his kids come to camp here some day."

They say other local vendors stepped in with bounce houses for groups with events. 

"It really was a community thing," said Andrews. "I believe that is why the trailer is sitting here. Somebody say something and said something."

It is unclear as to why the suspect allegedly went to the campus to take that particular trailer. The Hernando County Sheriff's Office says this is still an open investigation.