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2nd arrest in church burglaries
3 Church Burglary Roque mug

A second suspect has been arrested for his alleged involvement in a string of church burglaries over the past several months.

Johnny Roque, 18, has been charged with eight counts of burglary in connection with thefts from nine churches in the Dahlonega area, according to Lumpkin County Sheriff Stacy Jarrard. About $20,000 in equipment was taken.

Roque, a Dahlonega resident, surrendered to Lumpkin authorities Thursday, less than a week after his friend, 20-year-old Skyler William Michaelson, was arrested in the case.

"It's a sad situation. [Roque] works a full-time job and, from my understanding, he was doing this for the thrill," Jarrard said.

Dawson County Sheriff's Maj. Ray Goodie said Michaelson also faces similar charges in Dawson, where an estimated $40,000 in musical equipment and electronics has been taken from 12 churches since February.

It remains unclear whether Roque will be charged in connection with the Dawson crimes.

Michaelson faces three counts each of second-degree burglary, theft by taking and criminal trespass, as well as four counts of criminal attempt to commit to a felony.

Jarrard said he believes there are other suspects in the case and expects additional arrests as the investigation continues.

The first two arrests came after a parishioner at Corinth Church in Dahlonega launched his own search and found items missing from the church on Craigslist.

From there, Lumpkin investigators set up a sting in an attempt to buy stolen items.

It was during the undercover operation that Michaelson fled and led authorities on a chase that ended off Harmony Church Road in Dawson County.

Jarrard was later able to convince Michaelson to come out of the woods and surrender.

"We were very fortunate that he was able to search and find some of the items," Jarrard said.

Michaelson also has been charged with several traffic violations in connection with the car chase, as well as a parole violation.

The fact that the suspects reportedly targeted churches has weighed on officers from both counties.

"I told [Roque] that every single church he had broken into in Lumpkin County would have helped him, would have done something for him if he needed help," Jarrard said.

"Ask for prayer that the boys get their hearts right."

Michaelson and Roque are scheduled to have first appearance hearings Aug. 28.

Lumpkin authorities also plan to take the cases before a grand jury in August, according to Jarrard.