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Westminster Presbyterian Church on Peters Creek Road was targeted in November.
Nathaniel Alan Lutz
Steven Wayne Kershner
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Two Roanoke men have admitted they broke into a Northwest Roanoke church late last year, stole electronics equipment and started a fire in the building.
The small blaze did some damage, prosecutors said, but it went out before it could spread very far.
Steven Wayne Kershner, 34, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Roanoke Circuit Court to statutory burglary, grand larceny and arson in an unoccupied building.
He was sentenced to serve four years, with 11 years in suspended time.
Nathaniel Alan Lutz, 21, pleaded guilty March 13 to statutory burglary and grand larceny and one count of burning personal property, which was amended from the initial offense of attempted arson. Lutz was given two months in jail on the latter charge but will not be sentenced for the burglary and larceny until next month.
Officers were called early Nov. 29 to Westminster Presbyterian Church in the 2200 block of Peters Creek Road, where an employee had reported a break-in. Investigators found that the building had been ransacked and the dial had been broken off a still-locked safe, according to Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney John McNeil. He said officers found a small fire set in a hallway that had charred some carpet but had extinguished itself . They were later able to trace a fingerprint found at the scene to Lutz, and Kershner was arrested soon after.
Each man claimed the fire had been the other’s idea, McNeil said.
A computer that was stolen was later recovered, but a digital camera remains missing, he said.
Kershner and Lutz are jointly liable for about $4,000 in restitution, McNeil said Wednesday.
Police initially sought a link between the Westminster Presbyterian blaze and a series of mid-December vehicle fires at three locations around Northwest Roanoke, but Roanoke Fire-EMS spokeswoman Tiffany Bradbury later said the church break-in wasn’t connected to those incidents.
In 2003, Kershner pleaded guilty to four counts of statutory burglary in Roanoke and was given nine months on each charge.
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