Prison ordered in theft of purse at church

| July 29, 2010

NILES — A South Carolina woman did more than steal a purse when she entered a Niles area church during services. She betrayed people's trust in a place where they should feel safe.

That was the conclusion this week made by Berrien County Trial Judge Scott Schofield before he sentenced Kelly Nicole Walden for larceny in a building and credit card theft.

Walden entered the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Niles-Buchanan Road in Niles Township on April 25 and stole a purse when church member Linda Crider went to tend to a crying baby.

Walden, 32, of Rock Hill, S.C., was sentenced to one year in prison for larceny in a building and 90 days in jail for credit card fraud. She must pay $196 in fines and costs and $410 in restitution to Crider.

The sentences are concurrent to each other but consecutive to whatever jail or prison term Walden faces in South Carolina, where she was on parole from a 2005 conviction for writing fraudulent checks.

Walden apologized for the crimes she committed and said she stole in order to get money to buy drugs.

"I used her credit card and wrote checks without permission," she said. Assistant Prosecutor Steve Pierangeli said the court file showed that Walden wrote five checks and made five fraudulent credit card transactions after stealing Crider's purse.

"This is a particularly reprehensible crime," the judge said. "It is important in a civilized society to have places like churches and places of worship where people are welcome, where they can come and are entitled to feel safe and secure.

"It would be terrible if we have to treat houses of worship like airports where people have to go through scanners and screeners.

"You abused their trust in a very major way," Schofield said. "You walked into the church for no apparent reason but to find something to steal. To make it worse, you stole from a woman who was tending a crying baby."

Schofield noted that this was Walden's 25th felony conviction. "You have earned some time in prison," he said. "I hope you can get some substance abuse counseling."

"It is even more blameworthy that this is your 25th felony conviction," he said. "To manage to accomplish that at age 32 had to take some effort."

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Category: Church Security

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