Suspect in Centre Region church thefts faces trial

A State College man accused of targeting area churches in a string of burglaries earlier this year faces possible trial on the charges in Centre County court.

Jason D. Stover, 32, has been charged with breaking into six churches in State College Borough and Patton Township in late February and early March.

Charging documents show Stover targeted St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Church in State College and Park Forest United Methodist Church, Park Forest Baptist Church, Trinity Lutheran Church and Faith Baptist Church in Patton Township.

Police said the first in the rash of church break-ins happened Feb. 12 at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. Someone smashed out a window, entered the church and removed a credit card and several hundreds dollars that had been collected for a planned pancake dinner.

Stover was allegedly found a short distance from the church in the hours after it was burglarized. He had several hundred dollars and the credit card. He denied breaking into the structure and told police he found the card on the sidewalk as he was walking home, according to a criminal complaint.

The other churches reported burglaries in the following weeks, with church leaders reporting damage to doors and filing cabinets and stolen cash and other items.

Stover is also accused of breaking into the Knights of Columbus on Stratford Drive and taking about $120 in cash and making off with an empty keg owned by Red Lobster that was behind the restaurant. The burglary at the Knights of Columbus was reported March 1 and the theft at Red Lobster on March 4.

Police said in charging documents that Stover admitted to all of the incidents on August 8.

That same day, Stover pleaded guilty to charges that he robbed a downtown State College church in November, according to court documents.

Stover was accused in that case of breaking into the Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, rummaging through drawers and ultimately stealing $1.50 in quarters from a coin jar that was being collected to donate to charity, according to a criminal complaint.

Stover pleaded guilty Aug. 8 to felony count of burglary and was sentenced by Centre County Judge Pamela Ruest to serve nine to 30 months in the Centre County Correctional Facility.

He is in jail awaiting formal arraignment on the charges filed this month, according to court documents.

Stover is represented by attorney Elizabeth Hunt.