LIMA — A Jan. 7, 2020, trial date has been set for a Delphos woman charged with spray-painting messages promoting a gay lifestyle and other graffiti on the outside of a Lima church.
Natashia Shaeffer-Winget, 22, of Delphos, was indicted during the August session of the Allen County grand jury on charges of desecration and vandalism, both fourth-degree felonies.
Her alleged accomplice, 23-year-old Theron Litke, of Lima, faces identical charges. His next pretrial hearing will be held Sept. 19 in Allen County Common Pleas Court.
The indictments allege that June 20 Shaeffer-Winget and Litke did “purposely deface, damage, pollute or otherwise physically mistreat a place of worship” by causing between $7,500 and $150,000 in damages to a Kibby Street church.
Both were jailed and then released on own-recognizance bonds.
The charges stem from acts of vandalism that were discovered the morning of June 20, when Pastor Bob Wardle arrived at New Life Assembly Church at 1003 E. Kibby St. He was greeted by large spray-painted message on the church’s exterior that read “God is a woman and she is gay.” Other graffiti written on the walls included “Love is love,” “God is dead” and “Be kind.”
Profane references to President Donald Trump were also spray-painted on the walls of the non-denominational church founded in 2007. The front entrance of New Life Assembly was not defaced, but the east, west and north-side exterior walls were vandalized with graffiti and eggs, as was a detached shed on the property.
Wardle told The Lima News the morning after the incident that his preaching style is blunt, and he often focuses his sermons on what he considers rampant sinful activity within the American churches.
In a June 9 sermon, Wardle reportedly touched on the topic of sexual orientation, declaring “homosexuality is straight-up perversion.” A sign in front of the church alerted passers-by to the anti-homosexual views of its pastor. The sign quoted Leviticus 18:22 and read, “You shall not lie with a man as with a woman. It is an abomination.”
Wardle said he believed the spray-painting and vandalism directed at the church was “hate toward Biblical truth that the church is preaching.”
He estimated restoration would cost thousands of dollars, as the church’s exterior walls are made with a synthetic stucco.
“It can’t just be painted over,” he said. “The whole church will have to be painted again.”