Arrest Made 5 Months Later In Choking Case At Centerville Church

Apr 24, 2019, 10:22 PM | Updated: 10:24 pm

CENTERVILLE, Utah — Police announced Wednesday that DNA evidence led them to make an arrest in a case last fall in which an organist had been choked to unconsciousness inside a church.

Chief Paul Child said officers arrested a 17-year-old boy and booked him into the Farmington Bay Juvenile Detention Center on suspicion of felony aggravated assault and aggravated burglary.

“At this point, we have no indication as to what the motivations were,” Child said. “It is very disturbing to us because it was a random case with a victim that was unknown to the suspect, and breaking into a locked church to commit this crime.”

Detectives were unaware of any history that could have pointed to what happened on Nov. 17 inside the 300 East 270 North location of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The teen broke a window to get inside, according to investigators.

Ada Jensen said she saw the broken window that night, and rushed back home to call her bishop.

“It was a classroom that the window was broken out of,” Jensen said.

The 71-year-old organist, according to Jensen, described not hearing anyone come up behind her.

“She said, ‘I didn’t see anything,’” Jensen said. “(He) came up behind her and put his arm around her neck and it choked her, and she said, ‘I kind of kept going in and out of consciousness.’”

Child said the teen choked the woman multiple times and the woman went in and out of consciousness multiple times.

Though detectives initially did not know who was responsible, investigators said they found evidence at the scene, including DNA, and they were able to develop a lead that proved to be critical.

“Based on that lead, we started some surveillance of a person of interest and we were able to collect some discarded items,” Child said.

Building belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 300 East 270 North in Centerville

Building belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 300 East 270 North in Centerville

Child said DNA collected from those items ended up being a match.

“The DNA that was found at the scene of the crime that we believe very strongly was left there by the perpetrator of the crime matches the DNA of this individual that we arrested,” Child said.

Child underscored that the teen did not know the organist, noting that some had speculated the suspect was someone related to the woman.

“It was a surprise attack on her,” Child said. “There was no relationship at all.”

Child said the teen has not offered any information related to his alleged involvement in the crime.

Jensen said the neighborhood was on edge for some time after the attack.

“Nobody would go to church by themselves,” Jensen said. “They made sure there were others that went over to the church.”

She said the arrest was a relief.

“She didn’t ever hear or see anyone,” Jensen said. “To know that they did find out who it was and that there’s not somebody wandering around that may come back—it makes it nice.”

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Arrest Made 5 Months Later In Choking Case At Centerville Church