HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A Gulfport man who broke into a church last year will spend 14 years in prison.
A jury found 60-year old Melvin Grayer guilty of robbing Tabernacle Faith Ministries Church on 39th Avenue. Because of Grayer's extensive criminal history, Judge Christopher Schmidt sentenced him to 14 years without the possibility of parole.
Testimony in the trial described the events of May 25, 2017, when Gulfport Police officers responded to a burglary alarm at the church just after 4 a.m. When officers arrived a short time later, they found Grayer hiding inside of the church with several items belonging to the church inside of his pockets. Grayer had thrown a brick through the church's window in order to gain entry into the building. Once inside, he ripped a thermostat and a burglar alarm siren off of the wall before rummaging through drawers and cabinets inside of the church.
"Gulfport Police officers arrived within five minutes of receiving the call of the burglary," said assistant district attorney Chris Carter. "Because of their quick response, they were able to stop Mr. Grayer from not only getting away but also causing further damage to the church."
The jury deliberated less than 30 minutes before returning their guilty verdict.
Prior to this crime, Grayer was also convicted of various felonies, including burglary, auto theft, and possession of narcotics.
"Mr. Grayer, you are the reason for the habitual offender statute," said Judge Schmidt prior to sentencing him to the maximum sentence.