A 70-year-old San Francisco woman was arrested by Palo Alto police and charged with burglarizing a church and possessing property stolen from a Los Altos school.
According to police, officers responded to a call from an employee of Trinity Lutheran Church around 12:30 a.m. Sunday, March 15, reporting that the church's alarm had been activated and its surveillance cameras had captured footage of a woman inside the church. Officers responded to the church, at 1295 Middlefield Road, but did not find anyone inside.
An officer patrolling the downtown area spotted a woman, later identified as Ethel Jean Hays, walking on the 200 block of Lytton Avenue around 1:20 a.m. who resembled the woman in the surveillance footage. The officer confronted Hays, and she acknowledged that she had been inside the church. During a search of the Hays' belongings, police found a key to Trinity Lutheran Church, as well as keys to several other businesses in downtown, police said. Hays was also in possession of documents that had been stolen from Montecito Preschool in Los Altos.
Detectives also found that Hays was in possession of two guitars, which are believed to have been stolen from an unknown location, police said. One of the guitars is an uncommon, Hill brand, valued at more than $5,000 while the other is a more common Kay brand guitar. Police are seeking the public's help in reuniting the guitars with their rightful owners.
Investigators said Hays was also responsible for a burglary of Trinity Lutheran Church on Feb. 9, where a small amount of cash, donated by parishioners, was stolen from a church office.
Police are working to determine whether any other buildings for which Hays possessed keys have been burglarized. It is unknown how she obtained the stolen keys, police said. The Los Altos Police Department is conducting an investigation of the theft at Montecito Preschool. School officials were unsure when the theft occurred, police said.
Hays was booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail for two counts of burglary (one for each of the burglaries of Trinity Lutheran Church) and possession of stolen property.
Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the police department's 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or sent via text message or voicemail to 650-383-8984.