The two alleged burglars were so amused by their trip home with a church safe in the back seat and the rear car doors wide open that they were laughing hysterically as they pulled into their White Bear Lake garage, according to court documents filed in Ramsey County District Court.
And the mother of one man joined in the laughter, according to a letter she wrote that is described in charges against the men.
Eugene D. Benshoof, 28, and Matthew J. Secrest, 23, each were charged with second-degree burglary in connection with stealing the safe and other goods from St. Peter's Catholic Church in North St. Paul on Jan. 4.
Both also were charged Thursday in Washington County District Court with aiding and abetting first- and second-degree burglary in connection with the November burglary of a home in Hugo in which guns, antique war clubs, Samurai swords and other items were stolen.
According to a complaint filed last week, burglars got into St. Peter's Catholic Church at 2590 Margaret St. by breaking through a temporary construction wall. Cash, gift cards, a safe, a wireless microphone and a sound mixing board with a total value of more than $15,000 were stolen, the complaint said.
An informant's tip led police to search the home that Benshoof shared with Secrest and his mother, Debra Secrest. Investigators found the safe door, other items from the church and a letter written by Debra Secrest. The letter said the men told her they had to drive 15 miles home with the back doors open because the safe was too big for their vehicle, the complaint said.
"According to the letter, all three of them were laughing hysterically about the incident and Debra Secrest just had to tell someone about it," the complaint said.
In the search, investigators also found several commemorative plates taken during the Hugo burglary, which was discovered Nov. 27 when the homeowner returned from a two-week trip to China, the Washington County complaint said.
Benshoof told police that he and Secrest had stolen swords, a tool chest, a handgun and an AK47 assault rifle, the document said. He said Secrest had sold the AK47; two Samurai swords had been pawned in Forest Lake, the complaint said.
Benshoof admitted to police that he'd left behind some items of his own: cigarette butts and an empty Winston cigarette pack found at the crime scene.
Pat Pheifer • 651-298-1551