The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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April 5, 2013

Driver admits endangering minister in church crash

HERMITAGE — A Connecticut woman who drove through the front door of a Hermitage church – an act she said at the time was a demonstration of her faith in God – pleaded guilty to two charges this week in connection with the incident.

Kathleen M. Descy, 60, of Ellington, Conn., pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of risking catastrophe and reckless endangerment. Charges of causing catastrophe, institutional vandalism, criminal mischief and trespass by motor vehicle were dropped by prosecutors.

The church’s youth pastor, John Morrison, was in his office next to the entrance at 3:48 p.m. May 9, a Wednesday, at Faith Presbyterian Church, 2370, N. Hermitage Road, when Descy drove a PT Cruiser up a sidewalk, under a carport, through two sets of double doors and a vestibule, and through the double doors of the sanctuary, where the car finally stopped after knocking over several pews, police said.

The entrance is on the east side of the church, facing Valley View Road, about 1,000 feet from the road, police said.

Descy tried to back up, but the car got stuck on building debris. Police found Descy standing outside of the car. The front passenger tire was off the car, next to it, police said.

Descy knocked to the ground a stained glass window from the church’s original building in Clark. The window sustained minor damage and was repaired.

Descy called the incident an act of disobedience and demanded to be taken to jail, police said.

Shortly afterward, Descy mailed a letter from jail to the church apologizing, expressing remorse and offering to pay for the damage, police said.

The church finished more than $80,000 in repairs in September, when it concluded its year-long 175th anniversary celebration.

The Rev. Stephen Stelle said in September church parishioners have had Descy on their prayer list.

Descy told court officials she was a patient in a mental institution about eight years ago, and has been treated for depression and anxiety.

The defense, in an abandoned motion to present her mental issues as a defense, said she has suffered for years from bipolar personality disorder with psychotic features, manic depressive disease and hallucinations and delusional and disorganized thought processes.

Descy was taken to a hospital for treatment of bipolar disorder in 2008, after she led New York state troopers on a high-speed chase on Interstate 84, said the Times Herald-Record of Middletown, N.Y.

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