March 7, 2013

Woman charged in Fairfield church theft

Police are looking into her involvement in other area church thefts.

By Doug Harlow
Staff Writer

FAIRFIELD — Police arrested a Belgrade woman Wednesday morning in connection with a reported theft of cash at a Fairfield church this week.

Sarah J. Runnion-Bareford

Contributed photo

The woman, Sarah J. Runnion-Bareford, 36, of Augusta Road, was charged after she was identified from a photo lineup given to church officials on Tuesday, according to Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey, the interim chief in Fairfield.

Massey said other police agencies in Maine also are interested in Runnion-Bareford for reported thefts at other churches.

"As a result of some tips that came in during the day yesterday, we were able to develop a suspect," Massey said Wednesday. "The victims picked her out of a photo lineup and the car, a gray Dodge SUV, was identified and matched her car, including the plate number."

Massey said a search warrant was conducted at Runnion-Bareford's home where she was arrested about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. She was cooperative and did not resist, but did not admit to stealing the money, Massey said.

Police say a woman, later identified as Runnion-Bareford, entered the United Methodist Church on U.S. Route 201 in Fairfield on Monday morning seeking assistance from the pastor.

The male receptionist left his desk briefly to call the pastor and when he returned, realized that a bank envelope containing about $2,100 in cash and checks was missing.

Runnion-Bareford is charged with class C felony theft, punishable by up to five years in prison. Massey said the crime is elevated to the felony level because the amount of money involved was more than $1,000.

Massey said Runnion-Bareford is wanted for questioning in similar church thefts in Augusta, Rome and Lewiston.

Runnion-Bareford, then living in Auburn, was convicted in April 2010 of stealing money from a member of a Richmond church, which was trying to help her, according to newspaper archives. She was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

At the time, investigators said Runnion-Bareford had gone to St. Alexander Nevsky Russian Orthodox Church, telling members she needed money to return to Auburn.

After being invited to an after-church lunch, she went through jackets at the church and took a wallet with about $100, police said.

Runnion-Bareford was on probation at the time after being convicted of stealing three paintings valued at approximately $10,000 from the Congregational Church of Boothbay Harbor in October 2008, according to archives.

Bail was set at $500 cash for Runnion-Bareford on Wednesday. She remains at the Somerset County Jail.

She is scheduled to appear in court in Skowhegan on April 10.

Doug Harlow -- 612-2367


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