Hunt is on for possible serial church thief

Don Conkey

Police are looking for a man suspected of stealing from as many as seven of the city’s churches. Pocketbooks, cash and other items have been taken in the thefts. There have been similar incidents in Milton, Braintree and Weymouth, Quincy Detective Lt. John Steele said. “We have a suspect in mind and are actively investigating,” he said.

The most recent of the Quincy church thefts happened Sunday morning during a service at Wollaston Congregational Church.

As the Rev. Mary Louise Gifford was preaching about the Ten Commandments, someone broke into her church office, took her keys and stole her car from the church parking lot.

Steele said that the Pontiac Vibe was found with a flat tire Wednesday in Dorchester by State Police.

It was brought to a Mattapan garage where Rev. Gifford and her husband, Mark, then had it towed to a local dealer to be checked.

Police had left smudges around the doors where they dusted for fingerprints, and items that had been in the car were strewn around the inside.

Rev. Gifford said her pocketbook was missing from under the driver’s seat where she had left it, and pennies she had put in a dashboard cubby were gone, too. The thief left a savings account passbook behind.

A small communion kit in a leather case also was gone. Rev. Gifford said she did not know its value, but that she had a sentimental attachment to it because it was from parishioners.

Several photographs of church members that she had tucked above a sun visor were also gone, and she was surprised to find sunglasses in a case that did not belong to her.

State Police told Rev. Gifford that a brown pocketbook and a set of keys were found in the car. They did not belong to her.

Steele said several people who may have seen the suspect at their churches described a white man in his mid- to late-40s. He is between 6-feet and 6-feet-2 inches tall, and weighs 200 to 250 pounds.

The man has a medium complexion and brown hair, with a short military-style haircut, Steele said.

“I’ve gotten to the point that I don’t know how to feel about this. I’m tired of it and I’m really aggravated that I had to cancel all my charge cards and my bank accounts,” she said.

“My life has really been disrupted, and the worship life of members of my congregation has been upset. The more we can do to normalize our lives, the better,” Rev. Gifford said.

The Rev. Gifford said when news broke about the theft at her church, people phoned and spoke of robberies they had heard about at churches in Norwell, Newton and Belmont.

The Patriot Ledger