Man Sought in Church-Related Burglaries

By Christopher Twarowski
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 4, 2009

Montgomery County police are seeking the public's help in identifying a man believed to be responsible for several church-related burglaries in Silver Spring and are urging residents and other churches to secure their windows and doors.

Grace Episcopal Day School, Grace Episcopal Church, Calvary Lutheran Church and St. John the Evangelist Convent, home to the Sister Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, were burglarized between Dec. 19 and Dec. 28. Cash, checks and wrapped candies, to be given as Christmas gifts, were taken, police said.

Authorities believe all four crimes were committed by the same suspect, a man whose image was captured by a surveillance camera Dec. 20. The suspect forced his way into one of the locations, police said.

"We believe that this is a very low-level and unsophisticated burglar," said Lt. Paul Starks, a police spokesman. "He's looking for the path of least resistance."

At Calvary Lutheran on Georgia Avenue, the burglar stole several hundred dollars intended to help needy people, according to Beverly Harmon, the church administrator. "That was our money that we use for social services, to do good things for people who don't have anything," Harmon said.

A nun at St. John the Evangelist said the full extent of the theft hasn't been determined because many of the 12 nuns who live there haven't returned from holiday visits with their families. The burglar entered the convent through a second-story window, she said, and stole credit cards and petty cash. The burglar left other valuables, such as a gold cross on a dresser in one bedroom.

"For somebody to even think that they would get much from the convent -- I mean, we don't have that much around," said the nun, who declined to be identified because of safety concerns.

Police said they are searching for a man of unknown race with a light complexion and wearing a black jacket, gray hooded sweat shirt and black skullcap. Anyone with information is asked to call police at 301-565-5835.

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