Couple arrested in connection with Christmas Eve burglary

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A couple wanted in the Christmas Eve burglary of a West View pastor's home were arrested by Butler Township police Saturday after being pulled over in a car earlier reported stolen from the Shaler area.

Jessica Hirth, 28, and her boyfriend Jeremiah Kelly, 26, both from Ross, were being held in the Butler County Jail Saturday night, according to Butler Township police Sgt. Matthew Pearson. He said the two were arrested about 2 p.m. on Route 8 near Comfort Lane.

Police said they were able to track the northbound movement of the car because it was equipped with Onstar, an in-vehicle safety, communication and diagnostic service. The owner apparently had left the car idling while shoveling snow nearby, suddenly noticed it was pulling away and alerted police and Onstar, Sgt. Pearson said.

With the car's northbound movement being tracked, a Butler Township officer was waiting as the vehicle entered the township. "He did see the vehicle, got behind it and confirmed the license plate and subsequently stopped the vehicle," Sgt. Pearson said.

Ross police on Friday said they had obtained arrest warrants for Ms. Hirth and Mr. Kelly on charges of burglary, receiving stolen property and criminal conspiracy in the theft of items from the Ross home of the Rev. Michael Guthrie, pastor at Cornerstone Community Church in West View.

Police said Ms. Hirth, the pastor's niece, and Mr. Kelly entered her uncle's home, took checks, credit cards, rare coins, heirlooms and computers, as well as sentimental items belonging to the pastor's late son, Joshua, including a handgun he and his father had used to target shoot.

Rev. Guthrie said he and relatives had grown worried about Ms. Hirth's drug problem and met Monday to consider how to get her into treatment. Police said the burglary occurred hours after that discussion as Rev. Guthrie conducted a Christmas Eve service.

Police on Friday said they arrested Mr. Kelly's mother, Teresa Lenz, 53, of Ross, accusing her of trying to hide the pair as a Ross police officer came to her door to seek return of the pastor's items. She faces two counts of hindering apprehension and a count of obstruction of justice, police said.

Joshua Guthrie, a missionary pilot, led a program to train new pilots for a Dunnellon, Fla., education center, according to the family. The program flew medicine and food to locations including South America. He died in a Florida plane crash in 2010 while on a training exercise.

Joshua Guthrie and Ms. Hirth played together as children and the pastor's wife would baby-sit her. It was unclear Saturday whether the gun or other items taken from the pastor's house had been recovered.

"My desire is that she is found so she can get the help she needs," the pastor said before Saturday's arrest. "She is a danger to her family and herself."

Saturday night, Rev. Guthrie expressed relief, saying hundreds had prayed the two would turn themselves in or be captured. "I'm grateful that those prayers have been answered," he said.

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Bill Schackner: bschackner@post-gazette.com.


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