Man allegedly stole $500 from Pittsfield church; cites drug addiction

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PITTSFIELD — A city man accused of stealing about $500 from a church collection box on Sunday allegedly told police he was driven by his drug addiction.

"I'm ... high. I am a drug addict," John Hayer said when he was arrested for stealing the cash from St. Mark's Church. "That's why I did it. I need help."

Hayer, 20, of West Street, allegedly stashed the stolen cash behind a West Street business, but police were unable to find it in the spot he'd described.

Hayer had attended Mass at the West Street church on Sunday and had spoken with the Rev. John Salatino, identifying himself as "John H."

Video surveillance from the church shows a man matching Hayer's description enter the bathroom with the wooden collection box about 10:20 a.m. Sunday and leave a short time later.

The video also shows the man putting on a pair of sunglasses before leaving the church through its front door and heading west toward Onota Street, according to police.

A church employee said he was face-to-face with the man and could identify him.

The collection box likely had a larger-than-usual amount of cash in it, estimated about $500, due to the Mother's Day holiday.

Several empty collection envelopes were found in the bathroom, police said.

Police tracked Hayer to his home at the Briggs School apartments, where they were told he was working, according to a report by Pittsfield Patrol Officer Sean Klink.

When they arrived at his workplace, police were told Hayer had an emergency and had to leave for the day.

Soon after, police saw Hayer on a nearby street wearing the same clothes and sunglasses as the person in the video images.

Klink told Hayer he was investigating a crime and began reading him his Miranda rights, at which point he began crying and allegedly said, "I'm a drug addict; I need to pay my rent."

Police brought Hayer back to the church, where he was identified as the man who stole the collection money.

Salatino said Hayer had been in the church the previous Thursday and had spoken to several parishioners about his financial straits.

The priest said he was unable to give Hayer financial assistance, but he did give him some food,

Hayer pleaded not guilty in Central Berkshire District Court on Monday on one count of larceny from a building.

Judge William Rota ordered him held on $200 bail. Hayer is due back in court on June 7 for a pretrial hearing.

Contact Bob Dunn at 413-496-6249.


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