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Milton woman faces charges of burglary, theft

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Stacy Vogel
November 27, 2007
— The Milton woman accused of stealing from Hope Lutheran Church told police she was checking the envelopes in a donation bag “because she had some doubts about some things going on at the church,” according to a criminal complaint filed Monday.

Susan M. Mehlert, 43, of 9136 N. Raven Drive, made her initial court appearance Monday on charges of burglary and misdemeanor theft. Police say she entered the church with a key that she wasn’t supposed to have and stole money from donations made at Thursday church services.


The criminal complaint said $93 was missing from the church’s moneybags Oct. 27, the day Mehlert was arrested, but Sgt. Jim Schumacher of the Milton Police Department has said Mehlert might have been stealing donations since June.


According to the criminal complaint, the police department and Scott Wasemiller, a Janesville police officer and member of Hope Lutheran, used a video camera, silent alarm and “thief powder” to catch Mehlert taking donations from the church office.


According to the complaint:


Wasemiller first called Schumacher on Oct. 20 to say he had Mehlert on video rummaging through moneybags the day before. He later counted $200 missing.


On Oct. 27, Mehlert tripped an alarm at the church office, and Schumacher responded. He found Mehlert’s hands covered in purple dye from “thief powder” police had put on the moneybags and purple fingerprints covering the drawer where the money was kept. Mehlert said the dye was from copy machine toner.


“The defendant claimed she was doing a ‘random check of offerings’ that had come into the church,” the complaint said.


Later, Mehlert admitted taking $10 from the moneybags to buy food at McDonald’s, the complaint said. The police found a $10 bill tucked in Mehlert’s waistband.


The complaint didn’t address money that Schumacher said Mehlert also took from the high school youth group. Schumacher believes Mehlert—who served as director of the group—stole $1,000 by fudging accounting records, he said.


Mehlert was released Monday on a signature bond. If convicted of the two counts, she faces up to 13 years in prison and a $35,000 fine.


Her preliminary hearing was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7.


As a condition of her bond, Court Commissioner Charles Holznecht ordered her not to enter the church office but said she could continue to attend church there.


“If she chooses to attend services there and feels comfortable with that, I’m not going to prohibit her,” he said.



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