Man accused of burglarizing Rochester church returns to face charges 2.5 years after incident

(ABC 6 News) – A Rochester man faces two charges of 2nd-degree burglary of a religious establishment and one charge of felony theft after allegedly breaking into Rochester’s Hope Summit Church, then Redeemer Lutheran Church in January of 2021.

Gage Nathaniel Kasper, 29, recently appeared in Olmsted County Court after serving a little over two of three years of a Wisconsin damage-to-property sentence, which began in the summer of 2021.

According to court documents, the State of Minnesota began making arrangements to move Kasper to Olmsted County in September of this year.

According to court documents filed in July of this year, Rochester police investigated the burglary at Hope Summit Church on Jan. 22, 2021.

According to court documents, someone had left the lights in the building on, and various offices appeared to have been ransacked.

Security footage allegedly showed a lone man with a backpack and duffel bag entering the church at about 11 p.m., then about 3:30 a.m.

Staff reported that interior cameras had been moved, a DSLR was missing from an upstairs office, multiple electronic items had been stolen, as well as a donation box with cash, gas cards, and other valuables, according to court documents.

About a week later, on Jan. 29, 2021, police investigated another burglary at Redeemer Lutheran Church, where a church member said she noticed items were missing when she arrived that morning, and that a door and window were damaged.

Surveillance footage allegedly showed someone breaking into the building at about 5:15 a.m., walking around, then leaving and coming back with a bag, into which he loaded items from the church office.

The woman told police she could tell two laptops, two checkbooks, and two credit cards were missing, as well as some HD web cameras.

Court documents also allege that photos of Kasper looked similar to the surveillance videos, and that clothing the burglar was seen wearing on video was later found in Kasper’s abandoned apartment.

According to court documents, a police officer went to Meadow Park Apartments on Jan. 31, 2021, to speak to someone who said Kasper had told her he broke into Hope Summit Church.

The individual described Kasper’s outfit, and police attempted to speak to him, but he allegedly did not speak with police at that time.

The reporting party met with police later, and allegedly said Kasper “said he was sorry and he was high when he did it” and that “everything is stashed at his apartment.”

In early February, RPD allegedly received a tip from someone who had spoken to Kasper’s landlord, who allegedly believed he “did this sort of thing in Duluth and then moved to Rochester and had been doing it here too.” The landlord told police Kasper had moved out in the middle of the night.

Police also received multiple Crime Stoppers tips saying Kasper had robbed Hope Summit Church.

Much later, Rochester police learned that Kasper had been sentenced for damage to property in Wisconsin in late November of 2021, and would be in prison for three years, according to court documents.

In the spring of 2022, Rochester police heard from the Duluth Police Department Evidence Section, who said “they had items in their evidence (that) were forgotten about.”

The items came from Kasper’s vehicle, which was impounded on Feb. 6, 2021, according to court documents.

Court documents allege that Duluth police shipped Rochester the items, which included a passport, insurance card, and wallet that belonged to a pastor at Hope Summit; a computer bag belonging to Hope Summit; an iPhone, files, and mail belonging to the lead pastor at Hope Summit Church; a an X-Box from Hope Summit Church; a checkbook from Redeemer Lutheran Church; several checks Redeemer Lutheran Church had addressed to “private parties;” vehicle keys, some of which belonged to Redeemer Lutheran vehicles; and a Dell computer belonging to a Redeemer Lutheran pastor.

According to court documents, the items have been returned to the Rochester churches.

Kasper is scheduled to appear for an evidentiary hearing Nov. 16.