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Baby monitor helps nab church intruder

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Kelli Lykins keeps watch over the North End Church of God, 2610 North Erie St., which is the frequent target of burglars.

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Kelli Lykins' midnight phone conversation was cut short by a sound even more disturbing than a newborn bawling baby.

It made sense: her daughters had grown up long ago - and her baby monitor, nestled beside her on a living room end-table in her North Toledo home Monday night, was tuned not to a dozing infant but to the supposedly empty church across the street.

North End Church of God, 2610 North Erie St., was broken into more than 20 times last year, and four times since the beginning of the New Year.

With 11 broken ground-floor and basement windows now boarded up, some parishioners have come up with a nickname: North End Church of Plywood.

"We are getting to the point where the only windows left [to break] are the stained-glass windows. And that's got us very worried," said the Rev. Michael Rice, the church's pastor.

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As the Rev. Michael Rice looks on, Kelli Lykins holds a baby monitor she placed inside the North End Church of God after a series of break-ins at the church.

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Food, stereo equipment, even the two or three bucks collected during the week for soft drinks were stolen during the late-night break-ins.

Ms. Lykins, a church volunteer, decided to take matters into her own hands. On Friday, she put her baby monitor somewhere inside.

Three days later, at 11:30 p.m., it emitted a calamitous bang: the sound of a table, which had been leaned against a basement window, falling flat.

Her husband, James, an usher at the church, sped outside in time to see a man poking his head out the church's front door.

"No you don't!" Mr. Lykins bellowed, and the head retreated inside. Within seconds, the couple, their two teenage daughters, and a boyfriend of one of the girls surrounded the church, watching a frantic flashlight darting to and fro behind the few windows that were left.

"This church means a lot to me and my wife," Mr. Lykins said.

Minutes later, police arrived.

Robert Sawyers, 47, who sits in Lucas County jail in lieu of $2,500 bond on a charge of breaking and entering, was found huddled in a basement crawl space.

When police pulled him out, Mr. Lykins uttered a disparaging "shame on you," for which he received an apology from the handcuffed man.

Since then, Mr. Lykins seems to have mellowed. He remembers the man coming to the church to receive food.

"The church will be writing letters to him if he gets jail time," Mr. Lykins said. "We'll pray for him."

Mr. Rice noted that food was taken many times from the church, which operates one of the larger pantries in the city on its own dime, and hands its stores out by the bag-full to about 150 families a month.

"The crazy thing is, if they came in and asked for it, we'd load their car up," he said.

Contact Tad Vezner at:

tvezner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.

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