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Suspect killed on St. Helena’s property


Dialog reporter


BELLEFONTE – Employees at St. Helena’s Church were back at work April 20 following a harrowing police incident the day before in which a suspect was shot and killed by police just outside the rectory, which also houses the parish offices.

New Castle County Police said a suspect was shot and killed April 19 on St. Helena Church property. (The Dialog/Mike Lang)

New Castle County Police said a suspect was shot and killed April 19 on St. Helena Church property. (The Dialog/Mike Lang)

St. Helena’s business manager, Paul Penna, said Thursday morning that employees were not ready to talk about the incident. After the shooting, police sealed off the parish complex and a section of Philadelphia Pike and surrounding streets, and employees were not able to leave the rectory until after 5:30 p.m., he said. That was more than three hours after the incident.

Penna was not in the office when the shooting occurred, but most of the employees were, as was the pastor, Father Stanley Russell.

The incident unfolded shortly after 2 p.m. on Wednesday. According to Officer JP Piser of the New Castle County police, officers attempted to pull over a vehicle in Wilmington in the vicinity of 24th and Market streets when the driver took off northbound. The pursuit ended outside the city after an accident on Philadelphia Pike at the intersection with Washington Street Extension.

The driver exited his vehicle and ran between St. Helena Church and the rectory, where he was shot and killed. On Thursday, New Castle County police identified the man as 21-year-old Keith Price. The department said officers fired at Price’s car after he drove toward them before he fled. After the accident on Philadelphia Pike, Price ran and hid in bushes next to St. Helena Church. He emerged pointing a weapon at officers, who responded by firing their service weapons, police said.

Two officers, whose names have not been released, were involved. One is an 18-year veteran, while the other has been on the force for three years. They have been placed on administrative leave, per department policy, police added.

Price was being sought on warrants for attempted murder stemming from a shooting in New Castle on April 9.

Dozens of county, state and city police officers joined colleagues from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice on the scene. Officers were on the scene into the late evening. Philadelphia Pike was closed for several hours, and the body of the person shot remained in the St. Helena driveway, blocked by a black tarp and shielded by a tree.

On Thursday, police markings in orange paint dotted the driveway at St. Helena’s, and the spot where the man died was covered with a drying agent.

Piser said no officers were injured, although some were taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure.

The activity brought out several onlookers, including neighbors and employees of nearby businesses who heard the accident, the gunshots or both. Media helicopters hovered overhead, and reporters from several Delaware and Philadelphia media outlets set up on one corner across the street from St. Helena’s.

In addition to the church and rectory, St. Helena’s also has a former convent and school, a small gymnasium, a maintenance building and a building that once housed its preschool but is now home to the Brandywine Center for Autism.

Two mothers who were picking up their children on the afternoon of April 19 did not want to give their names, but they said the autism center had been on lockdown following the shooting.

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Fire destroys St. Mary Refuge of Sinners’ rectory in Cambridge, Md.


Dialog reporter

A two-alarm fire may have destroyed the rectory at St. Mary Refuge of Sinners Parish in Cambridge, Md., on Oct. 12, but the parish will continue business as usual, the pastor said Tuesday.

St. Mary Refuge of Sinners' rectory in Cambridge, Md.. The 55-year old building, which also housed the parish office, burned down Oct. 12. Diocesan photo

St. Mary Refuge of Sinners’ rectory in Cambridge, Md.. The 55-year old building, which also housed the parish office, burned down Oct. 12. Diocesan photo

“The church is fine, the parish hall is fine,” said Father Bill Lawler, who has led the Eastern Shore congregation for 11 years. “All of that is going to continue as normal. We’ll have to set up some temporary office space in order to pay bills and payroll and those kinds of essential things.”

Daily Mass has been canceled for the remainder of this week.

The fire, which was first reported shortly after 6 a.m. Monday, left the building a total loss. Joseph Corsini, the chief financial officer for the diocese, said insurance will pay for full replacement costs. The value of the house, which was 3,240 square feet, could be as high as $380,000, he said, but the insurance will meet whatever the final price is to rebuild its replica.

Father Lawler was not home when the blaze broke out. He spent Sunday night in Delaware with relatives and received a phone call Monday morning from the parish secretary who asked if he was OK, unaware that the priest had not been home. He was about an hour from Cambridge at the time. The fire’s origin was likely electrical, he said.

“It may have started in the office in the front of the building. It’s possible there was a short in a device, computers and copiers and fax machines that every office has to have nowadays,” he said.

“I haven’t seen any official report from the fire marshal yet.”

All the parish records were in the 55-year-old rectory, and Father Lawler had yet to determine what was lost.

“Quite a bit is also on microfilm. It’s probably the last five or 10 years we have to recover,” he said.

Father Lawler said he will be looking for an apartment in Cambridge, although he has been offered a place to live by Father James Nash, the pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul in nearby Easton, Md. He expects it to be a year or possibly two before there is a new rectory on the parish grounds.

One bit of good news that emerged in the fire’s aftermath is that Father Lawler’s cat, Señor Gato, was able to escape the building through a cat door. He was found at the church, where, according to the pastor, he spends a lot of time.

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