SHAMOKIN — Two men have been charged in relation to the Sunday, May 5 burglary at Trinity Evangelical Congregational Church located at 28 W. Arch St.

Robert L. Yost, 33, of 32 N. Anthracite St., Shamokin, and William Bender, 39, of 23 Gold St., Shamokin, have both been charged with burglary, criminal trespass, criminal conspiracy and theft by unlawful taking relating to the incident. Both men are also facing drug-related charges, which stemmed from their apprehensions.

According to police, several items were stolen from the church, including a cross, collection plates and church paperwork.

The incident was called in to authorities by a church volunteer, who confronted one of the burglars during the act, causing him to flee.

About an hour later, officers spotted one of the items believed to be stolen from the church on the front porch of a home on Anthracite Street, near the residence of Yost.

Later that day, a witness came forward to police, stating that Bender was in possession of a priest’s robe at his residence on Gold Street.

Police responded to Bender’s residence, were granted permission to search the home, and found a black robe in plain view hanging in the bedroom, authorities said. Bender told police he found the robe.

Police also found marijuana and drug paraphernalia in an adjacent property that Bender had access to, police said. Bender then received additional charges of possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Three days later, police organized a stakeout of Bender’s home, which is known by police to be visited by Yost frequently, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

Police observed Yost entering the building, during which time Shamokin police and probation officers converged on the property. Yost exited the rear of the building in an attempt to flee, but due to fencing and the pitch of the mountain behind the house Yost quickly surrendered, court documents show.

Police then found a silver metal marijuana smoking device with burnt marijuana residue in Yost’s pocket, according to court documents. Yost was then charged with additional charges of flight to avoid apprehension and possession of drug paraphernalia.

During an interview with police, Yost allegedly admitted to burglarizing the property, but said he did not vandalize the church. During an interview with The News-Item last week, church members reported that someone had defecated in a bucket inside the building and drew satanic symbols within the building.

Yost had an outstanding warrant for a 2016 DUI arrest, during which he allegedly had amphetamine, methamphetamine, Diazepam and Nordiazepam in his system.

Yost was arraigned Monday before Magisterial District Judge John Gembic III and remanded to the Northumberland County Jail in lieu of $45,000 bail.

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