PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Quick-thinking church parishioners helped police catch a suspected serial purse snatcher, who was in court Monday morning for a preliminary hearing.

Catherine Oberst came to court on Monday to testify against Eric Csurrilla, who allegedly tried to steal her purse in church.

“I thought it would never happen. I thought it was pretty bold for someone to do something like that,” Oberst said.

The incident happened at the Most Holy Name Catholic church in Troy Hill.

Oberst left her purse on the church pew while she took Communion. Someone in the church had identified Csurrilla in an earlier theft. Parishioners were watching and waiting for him when he came inside during Mass.

“They were well aware. We had a week to prepare them to say to look for a stranger who’s coming in lifting purses from the pews and we warned people to take their purses during Communion,” Fr. John Dinello said.

Several parishioners, including a Port Authority Police officer subdued and held Csurrilla until police arrived.

They also testified during the preliminary hearing Monday.

Fr. Dinello praised Mrs. Oberst for having the courage to take a stand.

“She, along with many of the elderly parishioners, they don’t want this to happen in their church and a lot of them have told me over the past week, if we can’t be safe here father, where can we be safe?” Fr. Dinello said.

Fr. Dinello thinks Csurrilla was trying to get money to buy drugs. Oberst hopes he gets some help.

“That was the first thing I said to the police. That man needs help and I hope he gets it,” Oberst said.

Csurrilla faces additional charges from two other purse thefts in the Troy Hill area.

He was held for trial and remains locked up in the Allegheny County Jail on $25,000 bond.


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