Jack C. Grizzard, former minister of the Del Ray United Methodist Church in Alexandria, was sentenced yesterday to a year in prison after pleading for forgiveness for stealing money from the church.
Grizzard, 47, who was a popular preacher, said on the witness stand he hoped his former parishioners "can forgive me . . . . I hope one of these days I can make it up to them." His voice was choking and his eyes were tearing.
The sentence was imposed by Alexandria Circuit Court Judge Donald M. Haddock after a succession of church members and friends testified in Grizzard's support, with many praising him for generosity and helpfulness.
The character witnesses included Grizzard's 19-year-old son, Jack, who broke down and cried on the stand after saying he hoped people could forgive his father, who told prosecutors he personally used about $50,000 in church funds during the four years before his arrest last October.
Judge Haddock told the heavy-set, gray-haired defendant, "When your son was on the stand, it was all I could do to keep from crying."
"I wish I could forget the whole matter," the judge said. But he said he could not ignore the charges of grand larceny, forgery and obtaining money by false pretense to which Grizzard pleaded guilty Jan. 17. He also noted that the prosecution said Grizzard attempted to conceal the theft of church funds by staging break-ins and destroying financial records at the church at 100 E. Windsor Ave.
The sentence was six years with five suspended. Grizzard, 47, spent from Oct. 3 to Dec. 21 in the Alexandria jail, time that will count toward his sentence and make him eligible for parole immediately, prosecutors said.
Since he was released under $1,000 bond in December, Grizzard has worked as a janitor at the First Assembly of God church in Alexandria.
The thefts from Del Ray United Methodist Church came to light after a church treasurer, Sally Rich, discovered that the account she supervised was $220 short. An investigation was begun when a canceled $220 check made payable to Grizzard was found.
"I think he's been punished enough," Grizzard's attorney, Michael J. Weiser said. "He has a felony record. He's spent time in jail. He's been separated from his family. He's lost his vocation."
One of Grizzard's new friends at the church where he now works, Mary McCrum, attended yesterday's sentencing, and said, "I'd trust him in my house even if he knew where all my money was. He's a very repentant man. I bet God doesn't even remember this happened."