Viewer helps find stolen Maple Heights church bus

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MAPLE HEIGHTS, Ohio (WJW) – A bus stolen from a church in Maple Heights has been found.

On Thursday, FOX 8 News aired a story about the theft of a customized bus from Hope Alliance Bible Church. We are happy to report that the bus has been recovered and is back where it belongs. 

A loyal FOX 8 viewer was watching our story on Thursday, and then when the man went to work Friday morning, he spotted the bus parked behind a warehouse on Cleveland’s west side.

After FOX 8 was alerted by the viewer’s employer, we notified Maple Heights Police and the pastor of the church.

By Friday afternoon, the bus was back at the church.

“I want to thank the Lord Jesus, I want to thank the FOX viewing audience, I want to thank you guys,” said Pastor Ron Morrison. “We were so excited, I was so thankful that so many people were praying for us and the very next morning from when you guys aired the story, our vehicle was found. Everybody is very excited and thankful for what you did.”

The pastor says the thieves smashed out a window to get inside the bus early Tuesday morning, stripped the steering column and apparently used a screwdriver to start the bus and drive away.

“Thank God, it was still drivable. The wheelchair lift is still there, so now we just need to find somebody to do the repairs for us,” said Pastor Morrison.

An inspection of the bus revealed that the catalytic converter had been cut off. Investigators say the converters are valuable to thieves because they contain precious metals, like platinum, that can be easily converted to cash.

Police say it appears the bus was taken by a group of criminals who specialize in stealing the converters and then selling them to metal recycling companies.

A number of converters were stolen the same night as the bus in Maple Heights and in Garfield Heights.

Pastor Morrison says the fact that the crooks were willing to steal a bus from a church is very telling.  

“We all grew up with a healthy fear of God that this generation doesn’t seem to have. There were just some things that were absolutely off-limits, you wouldn’t do this. They weren’t just robbing from us, they were robbing from the people that we want to serve,” he said. 

We are told the bus should be back on the road within a couple of weeks.

Pastor Morrison says the story about the theft and the recovery will definitely be part of his sermon on Sunday.

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