St. Michael's by-the-Sea Episcopal Church
On Sunday, March 8, 19 days after St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Carlsbad was broken into and robbed of dozens of silver and gold chalices, cruets, and ciboria, the items were found by a sheriff’s deputy in the trunk of a car pulled over on Shadowridge Drive in Vista. Every piece was returned.
“I found stuff [among the returned items] we didn’t even know we had,” says St. Michael’s pastor Doran Stambaugh. “We thought we were missing 15 or 16 items. There were dozens and dozens. There was one piece that said ‘St. Michael’s.’ That’s how they knew how to call us.”
But Stambaugh says almost half of the items were damaged because the “in memory of…” inscriptions were etched off. The cost of the stolen items was placed at more than $40,000. Jerry Rayburn, 24, was charged with burglary and vandalism to a place of worship.
Sheriff’s detective Martha Hernandez says Rayburn, who was living in an Oceanside motel, was pulled over for expired license plates. He was also charged with driving while under the influence of a controlled substance.
Carlsbad detective Sgt. Greg White says Rayburn was released after posting bail of $27,500.
Stambaugh describes Sunday afternoon’s face-to-face meeting with Rayburn as “otherworldly.”
“By 1 o’clock Sunday, I’m done,” says Stambaugh, describing his usual weekend fatigue. “But that’s when I got a call around four, saying, ‘We have a person in custody, we have a lot of your stuff, and the person wants to apologize in person.’ They asked me if I could come get the stuff and speak to him.”
Stambaugh met with Rayburn at the sheriff’s office in Vista, adjacent to the jail.
“I brought along our administrator and the head of the altar guild to make sure everything was there. We wondered how they knew how to look for someone with stolen silver. They said generally when you see someone with expired plates and who looks like he does you know something is wrong.”
Stambaugh says Rayburn did look “rough around the edges.”
“They said that they talked to him for an hour and he said he wanted to apologize to us in person. The cops told us they usually don’t see this kind of thing too often. They said it was very unusual, that most of these guys are hardened criminals, but that this guy actually might have a light left in him. He told them he wanted to say he was sorry. It was all pretty moving.”
Stambaugh says his colleagues waited in the waiting room while he went in and spoke with the man who pried open the door to his sacristy, demolished the marble “tabernacle” that held the reserve sacrament on the main altar and cleaned out all the sacred silver he could find.
“He seemed like he was full of shame. He seemed like he didn’t feel that good about himself. He said his dad was a pastor at a big Baptist church in Texas. I told him I forgave him. I shared with him what I shared on Ash Wednesday.”
The day of the break-in, Stambaugh sent out a parish-wide email reminding his flock that Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on Earth, where moth and rust destroy, and thieves break in and steal. Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal.”
“I told him I would pray for him…. I told him I have a son, and is there any advice a son of a pastor would give to a pastor with a son. He said to not keep the leash too short.”
Stambaugh says it was his understanding Rayburn was driving around with the holy vessels in his car since the day of the break-in.
“He said selling it in a pawn shop felt as bad as actually stealing it.” Stambaugh says most of the sacred ware will probably be re-etched with the original inscriptions.
“We’ve been looking in catalogs and many of these items you just can’t find anywhere. Many are irreplaceable. We have more appreciation of what we have now.”
One official indicated Rayburn was a U.S. Marine but was kicked out “for testing dirty.”