Pastor: Heroin habit led niece to steal rare coins, dead son's gun Christmas Eve

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Ross police have obtained arrest warrants for a woman and her boyfriend accused of burglarizing the home of her uncle, a pastor, on Christmas Eve while he conducted a holiday service.

Jessica Hirth, 28, and her boyfriend Jeremiah Kelly, 26, of Ross, are wanted on charges of burglary, receiving stolen property and criminal conspiracy, Ross police Sgt. Benjamin Dripps said today .

They are accused of stealing a handgun, laptop, credit cards, personal checks and rare coins Monday night from the home of Rev. Michael Guthrie, pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in West View and Ms. Hirth's uncle.

Losing the checks and the laptop wasn't easy, Sgt. Dripps said.

"But more important to him was that he was missing items of a sentimental value that had belonged to his son," he said.

The gun belonged to Rev. Guthrie's son, Joshua, a missionary pilot who died during a training exercise in Zellwood, Fla., in 2010. Rev. Guthrie and his son used the gun to go target shooting together.

"There's a lot more to it than simply breaking into a house," Sgt. Dripps said.

Joshua Guthrie was a missionary pilot leading a training program for new pilots for an education center based in Dunnellon, Fla. The program was responsible for flying medicine and food to South America and elsewhere.

Also charged in the burglary case with two counts of hindering apprehension and a count of obstructing administration of law is Mr. Kelly's mother, 53-year-old Teresa Lenz, also of Ross. She is accused of attempting to hide her son and his girlfriend when a Ross police officer knocked on her door, attempting to get Ms. Hirth to return the stolen items.

On Christmas Eve, Rev. Guthrie said, he met with other family members at the church to talk about what he called his niece's and her boyfriend's heroin problem.

Relatives were discussing money that had gone missing when Ms. Hirth was present and were considering helping her enroll in a drug rehabilitation program, Rev. Guthrie said.

The pastor of 30 years said he has known of "too many families who have grieved over their children who died from this. They looked like they were troubled people."

The couple lives a block away, he said, and the Guthrie residence is visible from their home.

When he arrived home about 9:30 p.m., Mr. Guthrie said he noticed two laptops were missing.

He went downstairs and noticed a locked area with his son's belongings had been ransacked. Inside that area were heirlooms, jewelry, rare coins and the gun, he said.

"My desire is that she is found so she can get the help she needs," he said of his niece. "She is a danger to her family and to herself."

Ms Hirth and his son were playmates growing up and Rev. Guthrie's wife used to babysit her, he said.

Ms Hirth and Mr. Kelly, last seen in Ford City, are the subjects of other ongoing investigations, Sgt. Dripps said. The couple should be considered armed and dangerous, he said.

Ross police asked anyone with information about their whereabouts to call 412-931-9070.

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Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1944 and on Twitter: @borntolede.


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