Sulphur man accused of vandalizing four area churches

By By Natalie Stewart / American Press

SULPHUR — A Sulphur man has been arrested and charged with hate crimes, two counts of burglary of a religious building and two counts of felony criminal damage to a religious building after allegedly vandalizing four area churches.

Police Chief Lewis Coats said it appears that Daniel Wayne Duplechin started at Our Lady of Prompt Succor where he broke in through a glass door on the east side of the building and began obliterated several statues with a sledge hammer.

Ralph Sonnier, a parishioner at Prompt Succor, said some parishioners had seen Duplechin at the church praying on Friday.

"He was here praying and then he got up and started doing crazy stuff and then he left," Sonnier said.

Our Lady of Prompt Succor Pastor Edward Richard said some of the statues destroyed are more than 100 years old.

"Some of the statues were in the old church that was near the courthouse," he said. "A lot of these are irreplaceable and I don't know where we can get anything like these statues. He must have been here for some time to have done all of this."

The church had nearly a dozen statues destroyed.

Richard said approximately 50 parishioners were at the church Saturday aiding in clean-up.

"A lot of them were shocked and very, very upset," he said. "Some were weeping."

Richard said Duplechin left his jacket in the courtyard, which had his name in it, along with a T-shirt in the church. He said Duplechin also left a guitar broken into pieces in the courtyard.

Coats said Duplechin then continued north to Henning Methodist Church and Sulphur First Baptist Church where he busted out glass doors, but didn't make entry into the buildings.

Coats said he then continued north to Our Lady of Lasalette where he was arrested.

"We got a phone call from a person who was in the prayer room at Lasalette," Coats said. "The person stated that they heard some noise and that (Duplechin) approached them with a sledge hammer."

He said when police responded to the scene and located Duplechin, he had just walked out of the church from destroying statues.

Coats said when police went to apprehend Duplechin he "charged" an officer and was tased and detained.

He said Duplechin told police, "God ordered him to destroy the statues."

Riley Abshire, a parishioner at Lasalette, said the church was "full of people" on Saturday helping to clean up.

"Everyone was visibly shaken and upset by the sight of it all and that someone would do this," he said. "Everyone was crying."

Abshire said six statues in the church, two in the prayer garden, and three in the chapel were damaged.

Among the damaged pieces was a crucifix that parishioner Bobbie Clopton said was more than 80 years old.

"That crucifix has been in the church since my mother was a little girl coming to church here," she said. "This is just so sad to see."

Duplechin gained entry to the church by breaking the front stained glass door.

Coats said it's suspected that Duplechin has "some sort of personality disorder and was probably under the influence of some sort of drugs such as methamphetamines or some other illegal narcotic."

Coats said Duplechin acted alone. He is currently being held in the Sulphur Jail on a $690,000 bond.

Duplechin has a lengthy criminal history dating back to 1995 that includes burglary, theft of property, and property damage.