Police in Gurnee are questioning a woman in connection with the vandalism of several churches and at least one mosque. (Posted 28, 2014)

A Gurnee woman faces felony charges after authorities said she was responsible for defacing 20 Lake County houses of worship with red spray paint.

Meghan Heinze, 22, appeared in court this morning on charges of criminal defacement to property at a place of worship and criminal damage to property, both felonies, as well as institutional vandalism, State's Attorney Michael Nerheim said.

Heinze is accused of using red spray paint to deface at least 20 religious institutions in Gurnee, Waukegan, Libertyville and unincorporated Lake County since Feb. 14.

Heinze confessed to police that she spray-painted all the churches with words, upside down crosses and smiley faces, and used a baseball bat to break windows and doors, officials said. They retrieved spray paint and a baseball bat from her bedroom at home, said Paola DeLeon-Bond, assistant state's attorney.

Investigators found text messages that indicated she was seeking access to a gun, and her mother told police that she had become obsessed with Nazis and serial killer videos, the prosecutor said.

Her mother also told police her daughter was on antidepressants.

"She said she is angry with religion right now. She stated that everyone is following a book written 2000 years ago," DeLeon-Bond said.

She drew the inverted crosses to demonstrate that the religions were upside down in their faith, the prosecutor said.

Four police officers identified Heinze Thursday morning when she appeared in traffic court on an unrelated matter, said Paola DeLeon-Bond, assistant state’s attorney.

The officers retrieved information from Heinze, then returned to the police station to compare photos from the video, officials said. Gurnee police returned to her home later that afternoon, apprehending Heinze as she got out of her car.

"She said, 'I know what this is about,'" DeLeon-Bond told Judge Raymond Collins.

Heinze, who appeared in blue scrubs in bond court, told the judge she didn’t know if she could afford to pay 10 percent of the $500,000 bond and referred to her mother in the observation gallery.

Her mother, who sobbed through much of the hearing, approached Nerheim afterward.

"I apologize for my daughter’s actions, even though she is an adult," said the mother, distraught. "She has no priors, not even a traffic ticket. She’s not in her right mind."

He assured the mother that it was not her fault.

"We will be reaching out to all the churches involved and seek their input," Nerheim said later. "There may be more charges."

In an email dated Friday, the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago released the following statement referring to vandalism at St. Demetrios Church in Libertyville:

In the spirit of the approaching Lenten season, I would pray that Meghan is repentant of her acts of vandalism and that we, people of faith, find it in our hearts to forgive her, hoping that she gets the help she apparently needs, the statement said.

 

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