Police found him inside a church, but he wasn’t praying. Now he’ll have time to repent.

Melvin Grayer
Melvin Grayer

A man who pretended he was asleep when police found him inside a church while a burglar alarm blared found himself standing before a judge this week with his 11th conviction.

Police found a broken window at Tabernacle Faith Ministries Church, damages inside and items from the church in his pockets.

The evidence convinced a Harrison County jury to convict 61-year-old Melvin Grayer on a church burglary charge Wednesday, District Attorney Joel Smith said. The jury deliberated less than 30 minutes.

Grayer had 10 felony convictions. Now he has 11, and Judge Chris Schmidt made note of his habitual offender status when he sentenced him in Harrison County Circuit Court

Schmidt gave him the maximum penalty of 14 years and ordered him to serve his prison term day for day.

“You are the reason for the habitual offender statute,” prosecutors said Schmidt told Grayer.

The alarm at the church on 39th Avenue began to sound about 4:20 a.m. on May 25.

Grayer pretended to be asleep when police arrived about 10 minutes later and heard the loud alarm going off, previous testimony shows.

Police said they found him lying motionless on the kitchen floor. He had a flashlight with him.

Grayer has estimated he had broken in about 11 p.m., saying two homeless men had told him the church was a house of refuge. Grayer threw a brick threw a window to get inside, said ADA Chris Carter, who prosecuted the case.

He ransacked drawers and cabinets and later ripped the alarm system and a thermostat off the wall.

“Because of their quick response, they were able to stop Mr. Grayer from not only getting away, but also from causing further damage to the church,” Carter said.

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

His previous convictions include burglary in 2011 and a burglary of a business in 2013, the county jail docket shows. He’s also been convicted on auto theft and drug possession, Carter said.


Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews