The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


August 26, 2013

Judge ponders plea deal in school threat case

 SUNBURY - A 37-year-old homeless man pleaded no-contest Monday to making terroristic threats against an elementary school in the Shikellamy district, but first told a judge that he wasn’t satisfied with his public defender.

Jeremy Michael Church, who has a mailing address of 249A W. Market St., Middleburg — his mother’s house — pleaded no-contest to a felony count of terroristic threats, and a misdemeanor count of terroristic threats for a December incident that drew Point Township, Northumberland, Sunbury police and state police at Milton to the Priestley Elementary School in Point Township because of the threats. Church also pleaded to a drug paraphernalia charge.

The plea agreement calls for a sentence of nine to 23 1/2 months in prison.

Northumberland County President Judge Robert Sacavage asked Church several questions to determine if Church understood the plea. When the judge asked Church if he was satisfied with his attorney, Church responded, “Not particularly.”

Sacavage then ordered a five-minute recess so Church and his attorney, Northumberland County public defender Michael Suders, could discuss the possibility of a jury trial if Church decided not to enter a plea.

Church, who has been incarcerated at the Northumberland County Prison for more than eight months, told Sacavage he wanted to do whatever he could to get out of prison because he needs to care for his daughter.

Church also told the judge he has been seeing a prison psychologist because he was a cell mate of Andrew Beers, of Paxinos, who hanged himself in the prison on Aug. 13.

Church eventually entered the plea and now awaits sentencing for his role in the December incident.

It began around 11:20 a.m., on Dec. 20, 2102, when a woman called the school and asked to pick up her child because her ex-boyfriend said he was going to come to the school and kill the child, police said.

The caller, who was identified as the mother of Church’s child, then called 911 and said the man was going to kill her and the child.

The threats brought officers from surrounding communities as well as concerned parents and relatives swarming to the elementary school after word got out that there were “serious threats” to the children inside.

Priestley Elementary School, which had 452 children, immediately was locked down, and minutes later, the entire Shikellamy School District followed. Police rushed to the school to meet an already waiting group of concerned parents, who had been stopped from going near the school.

Church, police said, referenced the killing of 20 boys and girls and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., just days before the Dec. 20 incident.

Sacavage said he would look over the plea agreement and would schedule a hearing to deliver his decision on whether he would accept the plea and sentence Church at that time.

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