The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

August 20, 2013

Judge: Teen linked to church burglaries 'capable of redemption'

By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item

— MIDDLEBURG — A Snyder County judge deemed John J. Shaffer II “capable of redemption” as he sentenced him today to up to 23 months in county jail followed by eight years of probation and 600 hours of community for a string of church burglaries and an unrelated assault.

Shaffer, 19, of Middleburg, was arrested last year after he was linked to several church break-ins that left many shaky parishioners throughout the county

In June, Shaffer pleaded no contest to 11 burglary and theft charges and one assault charge stemming from an assault on inmate Dwayne McCarty following his arrest.

Citing Shaffer’s age and lack of a criminal history, Judge Michael Hudock opted against sending him to state prison.

“I believe Mr. Shaffer is capable of redemption,” Hudock said.

Credited for the 338 days he’s already served since being locked up last September, Shaffer was informed he’s eligible for parole having served the minimum of his nine-month to 23-month county jail term.

District Attorney Michael Piecuch argued for a state prison sentence.

“Few people are beyond redemption,” he said, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve strict punishment.

Shaffer’s offenses “tore the fabric of society. Even the judge said the areas he burglarized are our most sacred places. Because of the nature of the crime and the impact it had on the community, state prison was warranted,” Piecuch said.

In addition to jail followed by probation and community service, Hudock ordered Shaffer to write a letter of apology to each victim and pay a total of $16,243 in restitution, including $11,752 to three separate insurance companies and $4,491 to St. Paul’s Reformed Church of Beavertown; Salem Lutheran Church in Selinsgrove; ; Penn View Bible Institute; First United Church of Christ of Middleburg; St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Middleburg; Port Ann Wesleyan Church; Zion United Methodist Church in Middleburg; Grace Reformed Church of Troxelville; and L&L Market Place in Middleburg.