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QUINCY (WBZ) ― Quincy police are looking for a thief who has been targeting city churches.

Purses, cash and other items have been taken in thefts from seven churches, and there have been similar incidents in nearby Milton, Braintree and Weymouth.

The latest thefts occurred Sunday when someone broke into the office at Wollaston Congregational Church during a service, took the Rev. Mary Louise Gifford's car keys and stole her car. It was recovered in Boston on Wednesday.

Detective Lt. John Steele told the Patriot Ledger the department has a suspect based on descriptions from several people.

Steele says witnesses have described a white man in his mid- to late-40s, between 6-feet and 6-feet-2 inches tall, and weighing 200 to 250 pounds. The man has a medium complexion and short, brown hair.

http://wbztv.com/local/church.thief.quincy.2.837414.html
 

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Police name suspect in church robberies

By Brian R. Ballou

Globe Staff / October 11, 2008

The Rev. Mary Louise Gifford, head of Wollaston Congregational Church, stood in front of parishioners Sunday, preaching the virtues of a good life. She dwelt on the Ten Commandments. But while she was on the pulpit, someone was violating one of them.
A thief broke into her office, stole her car keys, and drove away in her silver Pontiac Vibe.
"We walked all around the church, thinking that maybe someone had moved the car, because it was no secret where I kept my keys - always on my desk," Gifford said. "But then we realized . . . that someone had stolen my car. My purse was in the car."
The Quincy church wasn't the only one hit. At least eight in Quincy and nearby towns have been robbed since Sept. 13, said Captain John Dougan of the Quincy Police Department. "Detectives do have a suspect in mind, and this is an ongoing investigation," he said.
The suspect is Leon Hatfield, 44, a homeless man who has bounced from address to address in Dorchester and Roxbury, said Quincy Police Detective Tom Cleary.
"The Quincy police are seeking Mr. Hatfield for questioning only in regards to seven of the thefts at Quincy churches," Cleary said.
The thefts have shaken congregations from Weymouth to Milton, forcing church leaders to lock doors and instruct parishioners to leave their valuables at home. At Wollaston Congregational, Gifford said she arrived at the church at 9 a.m. for a staff meeting in her office. The church service started at 10. It was Communion Sunday.
Gifford attended coffee hour after the service. At about noon, she went back to her office to get her keys so she could retrieve something from her car. The keys were gone, and Gifford immediately thought that her husband had taken them. But her husband told her that he hadn't touched the keys.
"This could be a sign of our economic times," Gifford said. "I know it is tough right now for a lot of people out there, but this appears to be a well-planned scheme. So I don't have sympathy, but we will continue to pray for this person."
That night, a tall and hefty middle-aged man matching Hatfield's description showed up at Union Congregational Church in Wollaston and asked the Rev. John Swanson for money. The man had begged at the church just days before, but this time, there was a nastiness in the panhandler's tone that startled Swanson.
"I told him we don't give out money. Then he got into a car. It was a silver-like Pontiac Vibe." Swanson said he tried to read the car's license plate number, but the man drove off too quickly. "I'm sure it was Rev. Gifford's car," he said. Police found the car last Tuesday in Dorchester, without Gifford's purse. She picked up her car Thursday.
Swanson remembered that the man had been at the church the previous Thursday, panhandling from choir members who were rehearsing. The choir gave the man several dollars. Then on Thursday, Swanson said, his office was ransacked and approximately $200, some of which was to pay for pizzas for neighborhood children, was stolen.
Swanson believes the break-in was the work of the panhandler. "When he came back on Sunday, he was acting strange and was being quite rude," Swanson said. "Unfortunately, we have to keep the church like Fort Knox now."
In another incident, a thief stole about $50 in pennies from First Congregational Church of Braintree Sept. 21, using a screwdriver or knife to pry open a small wooden box. The money was being raised to help the poor and the homeless.

LeonHatfield is considered a person of interest in a series of church thefts. He is wanted on two outstanding warrants.
WBZ

http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/10/11/police_name_suspect_in_church_robberies/
 
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