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Christian broadcasting network towers vandalized

Stu Epperson, Jr., founder and CEO of Truth Network, sits on one of the felled radio towers in a photo that went with his Jan. 10 Facebook post. An FBI investigation is underway into the matter. Photo from Facebook

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (BP) — Local police and the FBI are investigating mysterious damage done to three radio towers belonging to a Christian radio network.

The founder/CEO of a North Carolina-based Christian broadcasting company reported in a Jan. 10 Facebook post that several of the company’s towers had been destroyed by an unknown party.

“Today has been one of the toughest days of my broadcasting life,” wrote Stu Epperson, Jr., of Truth Network. “…Criminal investigation is underway.”

The towers, located near Winston-Salem, were destroyed in a span of less than three weeks, COO Michael Carbone told Baptist Press.

The destruction comes amid nationwide concern over attacks on substations and the electric power grid. At least 10 occurrences have taken place in the Pacific Northwest in addition to a Dec. 3 attack on a Moore County, N.C., substation that left 45,000 customers without power.

Carbone, however, does not think those attacks are related to Truth Network’s vandalism.

“I don’t think they’re connected,” he said. “This seems to be a personal act of malice.”

The loss of the towers affected two signals – one AM and the other FM – to a Winston-Salem station. Temporary repairs are underway, with plans to build new towers in a different location.

Truth Network’s scope includes 20 radio stations in over a dozen cities. Programming is also available online at truthnetwork.com.

The first tower went out Dec. 22. The outage was initially attributed to weather as heavy rains delayed a personal inspection. When a second tower was lost on Jan. 5, Truth contacted local police and the FBI.

“We knew then it wasn’t an accident,” said Carbone.

Officials found that a guide wire at one of the anchor points has been sheared by a specialized cutting tool.

“This wasn’t kids having a good time,” Carbone said. “It was done at 10 in the morning with something you wouldn’t find in your daddy’s toolbox.”

The company hired police as security to watch over the last tower in the field. Hours after the police left on Jan. 10, it was also destroyed. No further information is available due to the ongoing investigation.

The company had not received any specific threats leading up to the damage, Carbone said.

In his Facebook post, Epperson, Jr. asked for readers to pray “for the person responsible to come to faith in Christ, for law enforcement and for our team as the rush to get us back on the air.”

In addition to founding Truth Network in 2000, Epperson, Jr., is on the board of directors for Salem Media Group, which was founded by his father, Stu Epperson, Sr., as Salem Communications.