Man charged in church vandalism

Photo provided Ashton Taylor Clayton

A North Charleston man could spend up to 10 years in prison if convicted of vandalizing a church.

Ashton Taylor Clayton, 19, was released on a $20,000 surety bond after his arrest July 1.

Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office investigators arrested Clayton and charged him with two counts of vandalism of a place of worship in connection with two incidents that occurred at Peace Lutheran Church in North Charleston.

Clayton is also charged with giving false information to law enforcement, according to DCSO officials.

DCSO first received reports of vandalism at the church on May 20, 2014. According to a DCSO incident report, a witness reported seeing a subject wearing black pants, a black jacket with a black hood, and a black back pack behind the church at around 7:15 a.m. She said the subject destroyed a statue of St. Francis and took a piece of the statue into a wooded area near the church.

The second incident occurred sometime between midnight and 7 a.m. June 28. According to a DCSO incident report, an unknown subject vandalized the church’s garden, threw eggs at the front door, and placed a dead squirrel and a note in the church’s mailbox. The note stated, “this squirrel is about as alive as your beloved Christ. Hail Satan! Hail Odin! Hail Anarchy!” The note also contained drawings of a pentagram, Nordic Rune, and anarchy sign and stated that it was from “Count Grishnok,” according to the report.

Further investigation revealed that Count Grishnok is a Norwegian heavy metal artist who was convicted of murder and the arson of three churches; the artist is also believed to be affiliated with an organization known as “Heathen Front,” a group which at various times has been accused of Neo-Naziism, White Supremacism, Anti- Christianity, and Anti-Semitism.

DCSO Chief Deputy Sam Richardson said the investigation has revealed no evidence to indicate that Clayton is affiliated with any cult or hate group.

The investigation is ongoing, according to DCSO officials.