Two suspects arrested in connection with burglary at St. Mary’s
Two Lakeside residents were arrested on suspicion of breaking into St. Mary’s In-the-Valley Episcopal Church on April 14, stealing safes, cash, checks, communion silver, sacramental wines and other church property, reported sheriff’s officials.
Detectives from the sheriff’s Ramona substation followed up on multiple tips from Crime Stoppers and media outlets on possible suspects and focused their investigation on Christopher Szumski, said the station’s Lt. Hank Turner.
On Tuesday morning, deputies from the sheriff’s Santee station stopped Szumski, 32, and a companion, 19-year-old Brandon Tye, in a vehicle and found stolen property during a search of the vehicle, the report stated.
According to Turner, during interviews by Ramona detectives, Szumski and Tye admitted to committing the Ramona church burglary along with a residential burglary in San Marcos. They were booked into San Diego Central Jail for two county of burglary and possession of stolen property. Turner said detectives are still conducting their investigation as they try to recover the stolen property and locate the owners of property recovered from the vehicle.
Turner said the church’s safes were found in a dumpster in Lakeside on Friday and Szumski had changed his physical appearance since the burglary but detectives were still able to tie him to the crime.
During the 3:30 p.m. burglary at St. Mary’s, two suspects were caught on video surveillance.
Parishioners who arrived about 5:30 p.m. that day to count money in the safe from worship services, discovered the theft, first noticing an office chair sitting in the parking lot, said Freund. That chair was used to wheel the safe to a waiting vehicle, said authorities.
A suspect is seen on the video making two trips to a white SUV in the parking lot where a male, who appeared to be in his mid-30s to early 40s, was waiting, according to reports.
Officials said the burglary only lasted a few minutes.
“They knew what they were doing. It was fast,” said the Rev. Gwynn Freund.
Entry to the church building where the sacristy, classrooms and kitchen are located, was accomplished by breaking a window and climbing through, said Freund. A hammer was used to break into locked doors inside, she noted.
Among the silver stolen were items “that had been donated in memory of loved ones,” said Freund.
Also taken were three irons used when making prayer quilts and classroom supplies, the pastor added.
A metal safe was stolen from the church office in a modular building where glass in a door was broken to gain entry, Freund said.
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