City priest robbed at cathedral

| June 16, 2010

A parish priest was robbed Sunday morning before church services, police said.

Wilmington police are searching for the armed robber.

The incident occurred about 7:30 a.m. at St. Peter's Cathedral at 500 N. West St., said Master Sgt. Steven Barnes.

The Rev. Joseph Cocucci, 51, told officers that a 70-year-old employee was opening the building for Sunday services when a man walked up to him and inquired if there was a Mass at 8 o'clock.

The employee, identified as William Muzzi, director of maintenance, told the man that there was. The man told Muzzi he was armed and ordered him to turn over all his money.

When Muzzi showed the bandit his empty wallet, he was ordered to take him to the altar area of the church, Barnes said.

The robber then made his way to the sacristy, where Cocucci was preparing to celebrate Mass.

The bandit reiterated his demands to the rector, told him he was armed and demanded money, Barnes said.

The priest told officers that he didn't see a gun, but thought he heard the bandit cocking the weapon in his pocket.

Barnes said the priest handed over an envelope containing donations to the poor box.

But the bandit was not content, he said. He then demanded the priest's cell phone.

Cocucci refused to give him the phone, saying he needed it for emergencies.

The bandit ran out of the church with the donations for the poor, Barnes said.

No one was injured.

The suspect is described as about 6 feet 3 inches tall and 185 pounds. He was dressed in black, with a red or orange design on the front of his T-shirt and a black baseball cap.

Police ask anyone with information to call Detective Randall Nowell at 576-3632 or Crime Stoppers at (800) TIP-3333.

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Category: Church Security

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