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Stephen Phillips admits to series of church break-ins, turns himself in

He's accused of burglarizing 3 churches in Berks County.

Man admits to series of church break-ins, turns himself in

READING, Pa. - A Reading man who admitted to burglarizing three churches in Berks County turned himself in Thursday afternoon.

Pastors in Mount Penn and Reading said they were appalled to see the damage left behind when their churches were violated.

Stephen Phillips, 18, burglarized three churches in a matter of three days, police said.

At St. Paul's United Lutheran Church in Reading, police said he used a holy candle to beat down the pastor's office door.  

He also allegedly burglarized Holy Trinity Church of God in Reading and Trinity United Church of Christ in Mount Penn.

When police brought him in for questioning, they said he admitted to all three burglaries.

"Kind of shocked, in a way, but shocked because of the reason why he was doing it," said Detective Deron Manndel, Central Berks Regional Police Dept.

Manndel said Phillips told him he resorted to burglarizing churches because his family was struggling financially.

"I guess his father recently left. They were not able to pay bills. They were getting shutoff notices for utilities and stuff. So while it was still wrong what he was doing, he was doing it to help his family," said Manndel.

Detectives said it took cooperation from both Reading police and Central Berks police to crack the case. They solved it after Phillips allegedly deposited one of the stolen checks into his bank account.   

"Information sharing and everything led to the arrest of this guy, and I am glad we got the case wrapped up and solved," said Manndel.

Phillips is facing numerous charges in Mount Penn and Reading, including burglary, criminal trespassing, criminal mischief and theft.

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