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Sylvania church theft suspects custodians

Two custodians at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Sylvania have been charged with felony theft stemming from the disappearance of an estimated $4,000 from church collections in recent months.

William P. Staley, 69, of Toledo and John L. Tenney, 48, of Temperance are scheduled to appear in Sylvania Municipal Court on April 12 to answer the allegation that they removed sealed envelopes from a church safe to which they had access, then returned lesser amounts of money in replacement envelopes.

According to police reports filed with the court, each was observed on video recordings opening the safe between Feb. 27 and March 1.

Mr. Staley was taped twice removing envelopes and then replacing them about 10 minutes later, the report said.

Mr. Tenney was recorded entering the rectory at 3:46 a.m. on March 1 and "hanging out near the safe nearly 30 minutes," with exact details of his activities difficult to discern because of darkness, the report said.

Church officials earlier documented that envelopes in the safe had been replaced by ones with different serial numbers on several weekends.

The envelope numbers did not change on only one weekend, when neither of the suspects was available to go to the church, one because of vacation and the other because of a traffic accident.

Each man is charged with fifth-degree felony theft, punishable upon conviction by up to 12 months' imprisonment and a fine of up to $2,500.

According to the police report, Mr. Staley acknowledged during an investigative interview that he had stolen $650 in "loose cash" from the church, while Mr. Tenney declined to speak with police upon the advice of a lawyer.

Both have been fired from their custodial jobs. Investigators also interviewed a St. Joseph School maintenance worker who had spoken with the suspects after their firings about the matter.

The police estimate of the loss is based on complaints from parishioners about underreporting of their donations and a comparison between two weeks' collections for a local charity.

Police said the exact loss is unknown, but nine parishioners reported discrepancies totaling $4,010 after receiving their year-end donation reports.

In addition, bags from a Feb. 6 collection for the St. Vincent de Paul Society that were tampered with contained just $1,645, whereas $3,403.15 was collected for that society a month later in bags that showed no sign of tampering.

The church began recording the envelope serial numbers and installed the rectory cameras after receiving the parishioners' complaints in January.

"St. Joseph Parish has diligently followed diocesan protocols and business procedures in the collection, counting, and deposit of parishioners' contributions to the parish and other charitable efforts conducted by and through our parish," the Rev. Dennis Metzger, St. Joseph's pastor, wrote in a March 19 letter to parishioners. "We have already introduced further measures which will prevent the type of theft which has occurred here in recent months."

Father Metzger, who was not available for further comment yesterday, wrote in the letter that he was "angered and embarrassed" that such incidents had occurred and that "the overwhelming generosity of so many of you has been violated."

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