Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office investigators recently responded to a complaint about vandalism and theft at two parish churches. Thieves stole copper from seven air conditioning units at Highland Baptist Church on March 11, causing approximately $20,000 in damage. They also stole copper from two air conditioning units at Berry’s Creek United Pentecostal Church, causing an undetermined amount of damage.
Eric T. Dietrich, 23, and Robert N. Johnson, 34, were immediately identified as suspects. Investigators were able to locate and arrest Dietrich, who resides on Pierce Boulevard in Bogalusa, the same day the thefts were reported. He has been charged with involvement in one of the church thefts with more charges possibly forthcoming. Some of the copper which had been removed from the air conditioning units was located at local recycling centers and at the residence of Dietrich’s girlfriend, Nicole Francis Pettinga, 31.
Robert Johnson, who resides on Avenue E in Bogalusa, was found the next day hiding under Pettinga’s house on Pierce Boulevard. He was arrested without incident for his involvement in one of the two church thefts, with more charges forthcoming for the other church theft. Pettinga was arrested also as an Accessory After the Fact.
All three are in the custody of the Washington Parish Jail and the investigation continues.
Eric Dietrich has been charged with three counts of Theft and two counts of Criminal Damage to Property, all felonies. He remains in jail with bond set at $10,000.
Robert Johnson has been charged with two counts of Theft and one count of Criminal Damage, all felonies. He remains in jail with bond set at $10,000.
Nicole Francis Pettinga has been charged with one count of Accessory After the Fact, a felony. She remains in jail with bond set at $5,000.
Sheriff Randy Seal complimented Detectives Damon Mitchell and Corbet Hunt who handled the investigation, as well as members of the Washington Parish Drug Task Force who participated in the arrests. “Thieves who are too lazy to work and earn an honest income should be in jail and I am pleased at the quick work of our investigators to solve these cases. Stealing is a despicable offense and stealing from a house of worship is without excuse. We are blessed with an excellent team of investigators who are always on the trail of those who commit crimes in Washington Parish.”