Police say 'obsessed' former church worker took $200K pipe organ
When a pipe organ went missing from a closed Mt. Washington church, Kendra McLaughlin refused to believe that greed or evil intent drove someone to take it.
She was right: Police on Monday said a former church organist who was obsessed with the instrument's beauty admitted taking it for safekeeping.
“Why would somebody do that? I was sure there was a reason,” said McLaughlin, a spokeswoman for St. Mary of the Mount Parish, which recently merged with the defunct St. Justin Catholic Church, from which the organ disappeared, apparently piece by piece, last month.
“This person may have had a larger plan and was doing what he was doing methodically and with love,” McLaughlin said. “It's sweet. He wanted to protect the instrument, it mattered that much to him. ... Where is the darkness in that?”
The former employee, who played the organ at services from 2004 to 2010, told detectives that he had a key to the church and took the organ, valued at $200,000, on Feb. 22 because he was “obsessed with the beauty of the organ and did not want to see it damaged,” police said.
Police and church officials declined to identify the man.
The organist confessed after hearing news reports about the theft investigation, police said. He's arranging for its safe return and will apologize to the church, officials said.
The Rev. Mike Stumpf of St. Mary of the Mount Parish said the church will not press charges.
“This was an imprudent and terrible mistake, but not fully criminal,” he said. “There was no intention to sell, and there seemed to have been no maliciousness meant towards the parish community.”
The organist told police he worried about the instrument because “it gets very hot in the church in the summer and cold in the winter, thus damaging the leather bellows on the pipes,” police said. He told police he was “thinking with his heart and not with his head.”
Stumpf said he hopes the organ's return will allow the church to move past “this very bizarre situation,” while reminding people that “we are a community that must rely on forgiveness.”
The church will practice what it preaches, McLaughlin said. She predicted the organist will be invited to play again at church services.
“This person has asked for forgiveness (and) the church forgave,” she said. “I'm absolutely positive the pastor will extend that invitation.”
Chris Togneri is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5632 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates set wild-card game lineup; Rodriguez gets start at first base
- House defeats governor’s tax plan
- Steelers QB Roethlisberger not targeting Oct. 25 return
- Former employee at Plum home-building firm charged with embezzling nearly $200K
- Sky’s not the limit: Pirate Parrot takes trip into Earth’s atmosphere
- Trafford mayor resigns, councilman gives up presidency
- Rossi: Time for Pirates to take next step
- WVU All-American Joeseph out for season with knee injury
- New Florence assistant fire chief charged with having sex with juvenile
- WPIAL hands out suspensions for Wilkinsburg-Monessen fight
- Young Hampton runners look to fulfill potential