Man caught on camera going on hours-long rampage, destroying historic church charged

HARRISON TOWNSHIP — A man accused of destroying a historic church made his first court appearance on Monday.

As reported on News Center 7 at 6, Kurt Griggs is facing charges after he was caught on camera breaking into a home and business owned by a woman who put six years of blood, sweat, and tears into restoring it.

>> PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Bricks thrown through windows of historic chapel, inside turned upside down; man charged

The historic chapel on Wagner Ford Road in Harrison Township was established as a church in 1926.

It went through many hands until Jess Hess, a local artist, bought it as her dream business and home in 2018.

But late last week that dream turned into a nightmare.

A Vandalia Municipal Court judge asked Griggs about the four charges against him — two counts of vandalism and two counts of burglary.

He is also ordered to submit DNA and be on electronic monitoring if he posts his $50,000 bond.

Deputies said Griggs broke into the historic church during an hours-long crime rampage.

“Just all gone, it’s all gone,” Hess said.

The chapel was damaged inside and out. But this isn’t the first time Hess has had a run-in with Griggs, she said.

>> PHOTOS: Bricks thrown through windows of historic chapel, inside turned upside down

Last September she said Griggs tried to dig up his own family member’s grave.

Court records show Griggs was charged with desecration.

An aerial view shows the Willow View Cemetary that surrounds Hess’ home.

She and her fiance believe Griggs became obsessed with the cemetery and even more with the home.

They think his crime rampage started with a plan to hurt them.

“It all led up to what I definitely believe, 110%, was an attempted homicide,” Paolo Cartaino, Hess’ fiance said.

“He admitted, he said he was coming in here to kill everyone and anything that was in here, and then we just weren’t here,” Hess said.

News Center 7 is working to obtain sheriff’s reports that may describe the motivation for the break-in.

An online fundraiser has been set up by Hess’ loved ones to help support her.

News Center 7 will continue to update this story.

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