Man says he was told church was house of refuge, so he went in. Broke in, police say.

Melvin Grayer
Melvin Grayer

The man accused of breaking in to a Gulfport church and causing damages testified two homeless men told him it was a house of refuge, so he went inside.

Melvin Grayer, 61, apparently was in Tabernacle of Faith Church on 39th Avenue about 5 hours and 30 minutes before Gulfport police responded to a 4:23 a.m. burglar alarm, said Harrison County prosecutor Herman Cox.

Grayer is a convicted burglar and is facing trial on a 2015 burglary.

Police found a window broken when they went in the church and Grayer was “faking sleep” on the kitchen floor, Cox said.

Police discovered the alarm system had been damaged, thermostats were torn off the walls and someone had rummaged through the usher stand.

Grayer had a flashlight with him when police found him on the kitchen floor, Cox said.

The Rev. Anthony Thomas arrived and told police Grayer didn’t have permission to be there, according to an investigator’s testimony.

Burglarizing a church carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

Grayer took the witness stand at his recent preliminary hearing and said he believes he went in the church about 11 p.m.

“He said he heard no alarm going off and said, ‘Police were waking me up and I don’t know why police were waking me up,’” Cox said.

Cox said he questioned Grayer and asked if he had stayed at homeless places before.

“Did they have beds or cots? Were there any in the church?” Cox asked.

“Well, no,” he said Grayer replied.

Grayer has a $25,000 bond on the burglary charge.

But he’s not eligible to make bail at the Harrison County jail.

He was out of jail on bond on a pending burglary charge from 2015. He also has been indicted on charges including taking a motor vehicle.

Grayer has a business burglary conviction from a 2011 arrest, the jail docket shows.

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews