Salem Twp. couple accused of stealing from vehicles while owners worshipped
A Salem Township couple are in jail after undercover troopers caught them breaking into worshippers' vehicles at churches in Ligonier and Fairfield townships in a sting operation.
State police arrested Frederick A. Stormer, 35, and Catherene Reed, 31, both of Slickville, in a Burger King parking lot in Unity shortly after they allegedly burglarized vehicles at two churches about 11:30 a.m. Sunday.
Troopers put Stormer and Reed under surveillance after a “good Samaritan” photographed a person driving Stormer's 2000 Chevrolet Cavalier on Nov. 8 as it stopped and occupants pulled on door handles of vehicles parked at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church on Mission Road, according to the complaint filed by Trooper David Shero.
Those attempted break-ins followed numerous thefts of purses, cell phones, credit cards and cash in October from vehicles parked at churches in Salem Township and New Alexandria, Shero wrote.
Among churches where thefts occurred multiple times were St. Sylvester and St. James Catholic churches in Salem and Prince of Peace in Unity.
“It's my understanding a good Samaritan happened to be getting cash from an ATM at the local shopping center and observed someone attempting to open car doors in our lot and took a photograph of the car's registration and provided it to state police,” Prince of Peace Pastor Bill Schaefer said.
Shero said in the affidavit of probable cause that the car registration matched Stormer's vehicle.
At 7 a.m. Sunday, police said they watched as Stormer, Reed and Reed's child left their home in the car.
“While under surveillance, defendant Stormer was observed driving through the church parking lot of Church of Good Shepherd In Indiana Borough, the bus terminal parking lot in Indiana Borough and the Indiana Mall parking lot,” Shero wrote. Troopers also saw him attempt to open car doors in the Wal-Mart parking lot near Blairsville, Indiana County.
The couple then drove 22 miles east to Ligonier Alliance Church, north of Ligonier along Route 711, as troopers followed, Shero said. At 11:30 a.m., troopers filmed Stormer as he entered a sport utility vehicle and removed multiple items while the owner attended services.
Troopers followed Stormer to First Church of Christ on Route 259 in Fairfield, where he took a cell phone and winter coat from a car, Shero said.
Stormer and Reed then drove to the Burger King on Route 30 in Unity, where they were arrested with all of the stolen items, Shero said.
“Defendants Stormer and Reed were both interviewed at the Kiski station and admitted to the listed crimes,” Shero wrote.
Schaefer, known as Pastor Bill, said he is pleased with the arrest.
“I believe when someone does illegal things, they need to come before the law and answer for their crime,” he said. “There's a lot of time we can give forgiveness, but I do believe we need to come before the law if one commits a crime.”
Stormer and Reed are charged with theft, endangering the welfare of children, receiving stolen property and corruption of minors. Reed also is charged with receiving stolen property and driving on a suspended license. Court documents show Stormer has a record of thefts in the county dating to 2004.
Ligonier District Judge Denise Thiel on Monday ordered Stormer and Reed held in the Westmoreland County Prison after failing to post $30,000 and $10,000 bond, respectively.
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2860 or firstname.lastname@example.org.