Meadville Tribune

September 30, 2013

Two men in custody related to area church burglaries

By Keith Gushard
Meadville Tribune

— Two Venango County men allegedly have confessed to committing numerous burglaries at area churches, according to Pennsylvania State Police at Franklin.

John Thomas Biddle, 31, and Steven Gene Kostenbauder, 31, both of Oil City, were taken into custody early Monday morning near the borough of Polk on burglary and other charges, state police said in a news release.

The two were discovered in the parking lot of North Sandy Presbyterian Church around 4:30 a.m. Monday after state police were responding to a burglar alarm at the church, police said.

After being taken into custody on suspicion of burglary, the two later admitted to committing numerous burglaries at area churches, state police said.

Biddle and Kostenbauder each were arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Michael Snyder on state police charges of burglary, conspiracy to commit burglary and theft in connection with Monday’s incident at North Sandy Presbyterian Church.

The two men were placed in the Venango County jail in lieu of $100,000 bond. Biddle and Kostenbauder each have preliminary hearings on those charges on Oct. 9 in Franklin.

More than a half-dozen churches in northwestern Pennsylvania were burglarized this past weekend, apparently in attempts to locate cash and other valuables, state police.

At least seven churches in Crawford County were burglarized while at least one in Venango County was burglarized, according to information compiled by state police at Meadville, Corry and Franklin.

Most of the burglaries were between 3 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. Sunday. Ministers and other church personnel discovered the burglaries as they arrived Sunday morning to prepare for church services.

According to state police at Meadville, five churches in central Crawford County were either burglarized or an attempt was made to do so. They were Wayland Baptist Church and Pine Grove United Methodist Church, both on South Wayland Road in East Mead Township; St. Hippolyte Roman Catholic Church on Route 27 in East Mead Township; United Evangelical Free Church on Route 198 in Randolph Township; and New Beginnings Church of God, Leslie Road in West Mead Township.

State police at Corry said Titusville Free Methodist Church on Route 27 in Oil Creek Township and First Baptist Church on Main Street in Townville were burglarized.

State police at Franklin said the Pleasantville United Methodist Church in Pleasantville had been burglarized.