Hempfield man again accused of threatening a Penn Township church, pastor
A Hempfield man wanted by police on ethnic intimidation charges since May 24 in connection with threatening messages left for the pastor of a Penn Township church is being held in Westmoreland County Prison.
Mark Eugene Ray, 59, fled last month as Westmoreland County police tried to arrest him on ethnic intimidation and related charges, according to Penn Township police Chief John Otto.
Ray escaped out a back door at his house on Corbett Avenue and got a ride from a neighbor, Otto said. The search caused a lockdown at West Hempfield middle and elementary schools between 10:30 and 11:15 a.m.
Ray was found hiding last week in Allegheny County and taken into custody, Otto confirmed Tuesday.
“We teamed up with the Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Department and found him in the East Pittsburgh area,” Otto said.
He was arraigned before Harrison City District Judge Helen Kistler, who ordered him jailed on $50,000 bail.
Ray was first arrested in 2017 when police said he attacked the religious views and ethnicity of members and pastors at Living Word Congregational Church in voicemail messages left at the church. He used racial slurs in those messages to describe the congregation and called the church “cursed” for its supposed political leanings, according to court papers. In the new case, Ray is accused of leaving four voicemails — two each May 14 and 15 — using similar language directed at the church’s pastor, who police said is black. Ray is white, according to court documents.
In one of the messages, police said, Ray threatened the pastor in relation to the previous case.
The voicemails were an attempt to scare the pastor into ending the prosecution and “meant to cause substantial emotional stress on the listener,” Officer Blake Danowski wrote in the complaint. “Ray has been told in the past to cease contact with the church.”
Ray was free on $10,000 unsecured bond since his 2017 arrest. A hearing on a pretrial motion from the defense was held in January.
President Judge Rita Hathaway revoked Ray’s bond Friday in the prior case at the request of Assistant District Attorney Adam Barr, according to online court documents.
Ray is charged with ethnic intimidation, witness intimidation, stalking and harassment in the new case.
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, [email protected] or via Twitter .