IMPD: 2 caught red-handed in nativity theft at St. Luke Catholic Church

Clinton Eggleston, Lorena Bartlett arrested

INDIANAPOLIS - Two people were arrested on felony theft charges after police said they were caught red-handed, stealing large wooden figures from a nativity scene at a Meridian Hills church.

They were captured after a high-speed police chase that ended with a crash, Call 6 Investigator Stephen Dean reported.

An Indianapolis Metro Police Department officer assigned to the Meridian Hills Police Department spotted the couple’s car with its passenger door open and its headlights blacked out on Sunday night near the St. Luke Catholic Church on Holliday Drive East.

Sgt. Matthew Grimes said he looked toward the church’s lighted nativity scene, which includes a 9-foot-tall wooden manger and painted wooden figures of Christmas animals and humans.   He then watched as a man pulled one of the wooden lambs out of the ground and placed it under his arm.   The man then walked over to grab a second wooden lamb, and Grimes said he watched the man tuck it under his other arm to carry both wooden figures toward his girlfriend’s car.

Grimes aimed his police spotlight toward the man, prompting him to drop both wooden nativity scene figures in the grass.     When the officer then turned on his flashing emergency lights on his patrol car, he said the would-be thief waved goodbye and ran toward his girlfriend’s car.

The couple’s car sped away through several Meridian Hills neighborhoods, winding through several sharp turns, but the pursuit  did not last long, police said.

Police said the car was speeding 90 miles per hour through a 35 mile per hour zone, running several stop signs and traffic lights, before slamming into a row of trees in the 6100block of Spring Mill Road.

Officers arrested Clinton Eggleston and Lorena Bartlett, both 26, of Indianapolis, on felony theft and receiving stolen property charges.

Both were also charged with resisting arrest.

Police said Bartlett, the girlfriend who was driving the car, was also charged with driving under the influence  of alcohol and  public intoxication.    She failed a field sobriety test and police said  the result of her blood alcohol content test was 0.12, more than Indiana's legal limit of 0.08.   According to the police report, Bartlett admitted to police that she had been drinking beer and shots of liquor.

Church leaders told the police that each wooden lamb was worth about $50 , but the police arrest report did not reflect what the couple intended to do with two wooden nativity scene lambs.

Medics checked out Eggleston after his arrest.  Officers wrote in their report that they accidentally opened a car door and struck Eggleston in the face as he was handcuffed and facing the door.

The lambs and the rest of the nativity scene appeared to be in order on Christmas Eve, with extension cords stretching across a parking lot and yard to supply electricity from the church for lights on the display.

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