Police have suspect for church break-ins

Police may have nabbed the Grinch who has been breaking into churches and stealing everything from rolls of change to laptop computers.

On Sunday, December 19, police arrested Nathaniel Linden, 51, after he was allegedly caught trying to break into Phillip Neri Church.

Following an investigation, Linden was also charged in connection with a similar break-in that occurred five days before at the Iglesia Bautista Hispana de Fordham.

Linden was arraigned on Monday, December 20 and charged with two counts of third-degree burglary, two counts of petit larceny, two counts of fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, two counts of fourth-degree mischief, two counts of third-degree criminal mischief and two counts of trespass. Bail was set at $50,000 cash or bond.

While police did not charge Linden in connection with any of the eight church break-ins in the area that have been reported since early November, detectives said the investigation is still ongoing.

Linden allegedly stole a briefcase, money and nine pens from Phillip Neri Church School. He also took a few rolls of nickels from the Iglesia Bautista Hispana de Fordham before he was caught, police said.

Similar items, such as money and handheld electronic equipment, were taken from the churches during the burglary spree that began on November 6.

In a statement to the police, Linden allegedly said he targeted churches because he was angry at God.

Despite the talk, Monsignor John Jenik, who heads Our Lady of Refuge Parish, is not convinced Linden was the man who burglarized his parish’s school on November 29, making off with about $1,300 in cash, a few laptop computers, digital cameras and a scanner intended for use in a kindergarten class.

“It’s not completely settled. There was stealth used in all the other cases,” he said. “This guy was caught trying to break in as there were people preparing for mass. He actually used his hand to break the window. That shows there was some desperation.”

Since the break-in, the Our Lady of Refuge, and many others that were similarly burglarized, have gotten back what was taken through the community’s generosity.

Monsignor Jenik plans to use what is left of the donations, after the parish replaces the items that were stolen, to buy a new security system.

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