No Contest Plea In Church Burglaries

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MIDDLEBURG -- A man accused of breaking into several churches in central Pennsylvania entered a plea in court Tuesday.

The suspect from Middleburg was arrested in Florida last year after he asked for directions to the beach.

John Shaffer of Middleburg pleaded no contest to burglarizing ten churches and one business in Snyder County.

That no contest plea means Shaffer does not admit guilt but can be sentenced as though he did.  He faces a possible 112 years in prison.

One of the churches is Port Ann Wesleyan Church near Middleburg.  Shaffer is accused of breaking in last June and stealing money.

"He found the one location where we stored money from Sunday, which we never do.  He found that location without any difficulty," said Pastor Paul Sheets.

Pastor Sheets says his church board originally wanted leniency for Shaffer until they found out it wasn't just their church that was burglarized.

"Now that we discovered it was a string of break-ins, we're just happy that he was discovered before he could do more damage."

It was a similar situation at Penn View Bible Institute near Middleburg.  Shaffer is accused of burglarizing the facility last June.

"Approximately $500 that he got."

According to investigators, police connected Shaffer to the church burglaries after finding a stolen laptop which they believe Shaffer pawned off.  At that time, Shaffer admitted to burglarizing two churches in Snyder County.

Shaffer was picked up in Florida last August, and charged with eleven burglaries.

Officials at some of the churches believe Shaffer can change his ways.

"We're always glad when people are finally honest.  Honesty has got to be the rule.  Certainly he did wrong and he's got to be punished for it, but that doesn't mean it's the end of the world for him," said John Zachman, Penn View Bible Institute.

John Shaffer is scheduled to be sentenced in August for the break-ins in Snyder County.

State police have not said if they consider Shaffer a suspect in church burglaries in Union and Northumberland Counties.