PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The suspect accused in a string of purse thefts in Pittsburgh’s Troy Hill section is now in police custody after being arrested Sunday morning during a church service.
“The individual came in about 10 minutes after the service started, and he sat right here, about five pews from the back of the church,” said Fr. John Dinello, of the Most Holy Name of Jesus Parish.
Fr. Dinello says ushers were warned to be on the lookout for the suspect, identified by authorities as Eric Csurrilla, during morning Mass at Most Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in Troy Hill.
He says within minutes, Csurrilla was caught, allegedly trying to steal an elderly woman’s purse.
“As the people started filing out of their pews to go to Communion, she left the purse on the pew; he came right up and snatched the purse,” said Fr. Dinello.
Several parishioners tackled the suspect as he tried to run out of the back of the church and held him for police.
Fr. Dinello says they were waiting for Csurrilla after he was identified in two recent purse thefts nearby at St. Anthony’s Chapel and Billy’s Restaurant.
Jim Bougher, the owner of Billy’s, believes an employee may have turned her back while Csurrilla was inside the business.
“Fifteen minutes later, my cook came to get her purse, and the purse was missing, and what happened was they found it a day or two later,” said Bougher.
Fr. Dinello says he believes drugs could be the reason for the crimes. He was a strong advocate against crime when he worked at a parish in Bloomfield and he plans to do the same in Troy Hill.
“I always have a little angel over my shoulder,” Fr. Dinello added. “Officer Paul Scuillo was a very good friend of mine and he taught us great lessons on how to serve in the community and protect the community.”
Plans are also underway to improve lighting and to install video surveillance cameras outside the parish. The goal is to let the criminals know they’re being watched whether it’s inside or outside the church.