The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

April 19, 2013

Convicted felon charged with stealing pastor's pistol

By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item

— SUNBURY — A convicted felon prohibited from owning a gun stole a semi-automatic pistol while burglarizing the home of a well-known Valley pastor, city police said.

John Barrera, 36, of 7 Haas Ave., was arrested Thursday and charged with a variety of offenses, including stealing Mark Gittens’ .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun, which remains missing.

Barrera was arraigned before District Judge Richard Cashman on Thursday after allegedly admitting to police that he stole from the leader of h2church, Sunbury.

According to court documents, Gittens visited Sunbury police April 7 about the burglary, said two X-Box video games were taken, and his Firestar handgun and a loaded magazine were also missing, court documents said.

Gittens told police he had last seen the gun three weeks prior, that he does not lock his home when he is away, and that while he doesn’t like to make accusations, believed Barrera, known as “Pito,” was involved, court documents said.

Barrera repeatedly called Gittens over several weeks asking for money so he could avoid jail for failure to pay child support, the pastor told police. Barrera said he wanted to change his life and begin attending Gittens’ church — but to do so he would need a ride to Selinsgrove, where services are held.

Gittens arranged a ride for Barrera from another congregant, who told the pastor that he failed to reach Barrera several times by phone regarding the transportation.

Barrera knew Gittens did not lock his house door, that the pastor would leave for church at 8 a.m. on Sundays and that his children would leave around 10 a.m., Gittens told police.

For three straight Sundays prior to the robbery, Barrera arrived at Gittens’ home and Gittens’ son or another juvenile would answer the door, court documents said. Barrera would ask if the pastor was home. No, the children would respond. Barrera would tell them he was there for a ride to church, police said.

According to court documents, Gittens said he never told Barrera he would personally provide transportation.

Police called Barrera on Thursday, and asked him to come to the station for questioning.

Barrera initially denied that he had stolen video games, police said.

Barrera then admitted that he knew the door was unlocked, that no one would be home, and that he stole the games from a bedroom, court documents said.

Barrera told police he sold the video games to West Coast Video, Sunbury, for $10.

Barrera also at first denied stealing the gun.

“I heard a gun was stolen,” he told police.

He then admitted to taking the gun from Gittens’ house and giving it to “friend” to hold onto, police said.

Police have not recovered the stolen handgun.

In Cashman’s courtroom on Thursday, Barrera said: “When you do something you shouldn’t, you have to pay the price.”

Barrera told the district judge he was convicted of selling drugs in New York in 1995 and has not had any serious offenses since.

“Until this,” he said.

Barrera said he suffers from abusing drugs and is on disability for nerves and depression.

Barrera was charged with five felonies, including burglary, criminal trespass, theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property and possessing a hand gun.

As a convicted felon, Barrera is also prohibited from owning, controlling, selling or transferring any weapons.

Barrera was placed in Northumberland County Prison in lieu of $50,000 cash bail.