Woman claims national security in threats against pastor

| January 8, 2010

NORRISTOWN — An Upper Frederick homemaker, stunning courtroom spectators, claimed her involvement in a "covert" national security mission led her to threaten the pastor of an Upper Providence church.

"I became involved in a covert operation involving national security and he also was involved," Terri Ann Calderon said when pressed by Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O'Neill about her reasons for terrorizing the pastor.

O'Neill, who referred to the case as "bizarre," and others in the courtroom appeared to be caught off-guard by Calderon's strange comment.

"I think it's safe to assume that her covert operation is a delusion and the victims in the matter, who she claimed were involved in this operation, have no knowledge about what she's talking about," said Assistant District Attorney John Walko, adding authorities uncovered no explanation for Calderon's conduct.

Calderon, 47, of Brookside Way, a homemaker who raised four children, pleaded guilty Thursday to a misdemeanor charge of terroristic threats in connection with March 2009 incidents during which she used letters and a telephone call to threaten to kill the pastor of a church she attended.

Judge O'Neill, accepting a plea agreement in the case, sentenced Calderon to four months and 28 days already served to 23 months in jail, to be followed by two years' probation.

O'Neill said Calderon must undergo a psychiatric evaluation and comply with all recommendations for counseling.

Members of the county probation department's mental health division will supervise Calderon during the probationary period. The judge warned Calderon to have no contact with the pastor or her one-time church or she would be in violation of the sentence and put back in jail.

"There really is no reason for you to go to that church. You can't go to that church anymore. Any such contact will result in immediate incarceration," O'Neill told Calderon. "It's troubling, but we'll see how you do under supervision out in the community."

"I intend no harm to (the pastor) or to his family," Calderon responded.

The judge previously had Calderon evaluated at a state hospital and officials there determined she suffers from a psychotic disorder "not otherwise specified," according to testimony. Doctors previously ruled Calderon was competent to proceed to court on the charges.

"This is an intelligent woman with a family. I hope she gets her life together and gains insight into what caused these behaviors," said defense lawyer John Kravitz.

An investigation of Calderon began on March 26 when the pastor of the church reported to police that he discovered a large gift bag the day before in a coatroom inside the church. The bag had a tag affixed with the pastor's name and contained several items, including U.S. Army stationery with individual cutout letters affixed to it, according to the arrest affidavit.

"The letters appearing to have been cut out individually from magazines or similar periodicals," Upper Providence Detective Raymond D. Bechtel III wrote in the arrest affidavit.

The letter read, "BOO I AM GOING TO KILL YOU!" according to court papers.

Another letter to the pastor and signed by "Terri" read, "I am going to kill you … and to think I almost lost my life," according to the criminal complaint.

Walko said the pastor, his family and parishioners were terrified by the letters.

"In light of other church shootings that occurred throughout the country, the entire church congregation was terrified that she would come into the church and start shooting," Walko said.

When police contacted Calderon that same day, she admitted to writing the letters and she was taken into custody.

But on March 27, Calderon telephoned the pastor at the church and complained about being detained at Norristown State Hospital and threatened to kill the pastor when she was released, the arrest affidavit said.

Walko said the main goal of the legal proceedings was to make sure that Calderon stays away from the church "so the pastor and his family can live in peace and quiet without having to look over their shoulders, and so the congregation is free to worship in a safe and secure environment."



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Category: Church Security