NEWPORT CITY – Two men pleaded not guilty Tuesday to multiple charges following a break-in at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Newport.
Nathan Ladieu, 30, denied charges of felony burglary, felony unlawful mischief, misdemeanor unlawful trespass and misdemeanor contributing to the delinquency of someone younger than 16.
Based on the same incident, Hunter Uhlendorff, 18, denied charges of aiding in the commission of a felony, misdemeanor contributing to the delinquency of someone younger than 16 and misdemeanor unlawful trespass.
Saturday, Nov. 12, Father Michael Reardon reported to Newport City Police that he believed a security camera captured someone stealing from the church. Officer Charles Moulton met with Fr. Reardon and Fr. Thomas Naduviledath.
Earlier that night, Fr. Reardon walked from the rectory to the church and noticed one of the locked doors partially ajar. He also noticed some pry marks on the casing next to the two-way lock. Fr. Reardon secured the door and entered the sacristy from a different door.
Upon entering, he heard footsteps, turned on some lights and noticed the tabernacle doors were open. Fr. Reardon turned on more lights and saw “several” people running. He called the rectory and asked Fr. Naduviledath to come to the church. Once there, the priests went through the church and made several observations: Someone had forcible opened several cabinets in the sacristy and the locks were broken or bent but nothing was missing. Someone had pried open and emptied the candle box and offering box, which usually contain approximately $20. The priests also found an unlocked door on the west side of the building.
Sgt. Seth DiSanto of the Newport City Police responded to the church to help Officer Moulton with the processing. In the sacristy, the officers saw two broken cabinet padlocks and a piece of linen over a security camera. Fr. Reardon told police that, while watching the surveillance video, he had seen someone look right at the camera and then cover it up.
The police looked at the open tabernacle and found that the tool marks on the door and casings were indiscernible but there were marks inside the lock itself. Fr. Reardon said the lock now turns rough where it didn't before.
Security camera footage revealed that at 6:54 p.m. two men and a woman walked to the rectory door. They then walked to one of the doors on the west side of the church. The video showed someone Moulton knew as Ladieu walk up to the security camera, look at it, lower his head and cover the camera with a piece of linen.
For the next 52 minutes, Ladieu walked around the church. Meanwhile, the female and the second male went to a corner and remained there for the majority of the time. Moulton did not recognize who they were but recalled having seen them in Newport. The video showed Ladieu handed something over to the second male who put the item in his pocket.
The video showed that the three individuals hid when Fr. Reardon entered the church. When he turned on the lights, they hid even further and, when a brighter light came on, they ran to the north end of the church, out a door and down Prospect Street.
DiSanto and Moulton went to a Summer Street apartment where DiSanto had seen Ladieu several times in the past including early that evening. When DiSanto asked for Ladieu, someone identified in the affidavit as Juvenile 1 said, “What do they want to talk to me for? I haven’t done anything.” DiSanto wrote that he had only inquired about Ladieu and no one else.
DiSanto told Juvenile 1 that a surveillance video had captured the incident. Juvenile 1 put her head down, took a deep breath and told him how she, Uhlendorff and Ladieu entered the church. She said that Ladieu walked around looking for things while she just stood there. Juvenile I said she didn’t take any property from the church. She later said that she thought she was allowed to enter the church at any time.
According to the affidavit, Uhlendorff admitted that he, Juvenile 1 and Ladieu had gone into the church. The affidavit states that the three went to the front door of the rectory but found it locked so they went to one of the doors to the church. Uhlendorff said the door was not locked but Ladieu had to it open with his finger. Uhlendorff said he gave Ladieu his knife and stated knew what Ladieu was going to do with it.
While Ladieu went through the church, Uhlendorff and Juvenile 1 were in a corner “kissing and cuddling,” they told police.
Uhlendorff initially told police he thought it was all right to go into the church but later admitted he knew it was wrong and that they should have not entered. At first Uhlendorff said he didn’t know if Ladieu took anything from the church, but later admitted Ladieu stole between a few dollars.
Ladieu reportedly admitted to being inside of the church and to snooping around but denied taking anything. With the exception of change, the boxes he pried open were empty.
Police issued Juvenile 1 a citation to appear in Vermont Family Court and released her to her mother.