A Ponte Vedra Beach teen is accused of leaving a trail of damage totaling more than $10,000 through a local church.
Deputies responded Saturday night to a report of a suspicious person near the Christ Episcopal Church on San Juan Drive. A woman said a teen asked repeatedly to use her phone, and then became upset and started yelling profanities when the call went to voicemail. Investigators learned there was a party nearby involving juveniles, and based on the woman’s description and accounts of the teens at the party, they focused in on 17-year-old Michael Hart.
St. Johns County investigators responding to the call also found significant damage to the Church itself. The incident report says several interior glass doors and stained glass windows were shattered, a large candelabra was broken, a fire extinguisher was discharged, a small fire was set, and there were damaged prayer books, chairs, and benches. The damage is estimated to exceed $10,000.
During an interview with Hart after he had read and acknowledged his rights, deputies say he admitted to being under the influence of Xanax and alcohol Saturday night, saying he was upset because he had broken up with his girlfriend. The arrest report says Hart remembered discharging a fire extinguisher and potentially starting a fire or breaking a window, but doesn’t remember the specific damage left behind in the Church- although he doesn’t deny doing it either.
Hart faces several charges, including arson, criminal mischief, burglary, and more.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Our initial report based on the incident report from the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office has been edited at the request of the Sheriff’s Office. Information regarding statements from the suspect’s mother and former girlfriend which were released in the report have been removed at the request of the Sheriff’s Office because of the active nature of the investigation.