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Charges filed regarding Gardner Hill Church incident

December 14, 2011

Photo courtesy of Bennetts Valley News – Charges were filed this week in relation to an incident that occurred at Gardner Hill Community Church in Weedville on Oct. 26, including the placement of a dead deer, shown above, inside the building.

WEEDVILLE – On the morning of Oct. 26, it was discovered that the Gardner Hill Community Church had been vandalized overnight. During that incident, a table and stereo were taken and a dead deer was left inside the church. The incident was subsequently investigated by the Pennsylvania State Police and Pennsylvania Game Commission and charges were filed against five individuals through District Judge Wilhelm's office on Dec. 12.
According to an affidavit of probable cause obtained by The Daily Press from District Judge Wilhelm's office, the individuals facing charges related to the incident are Haley Elizabeth Heindl, 19, of Houston, Texas; Martin Andrew Chicola, 22, of St. Marys; Brandon Charles Ott, 19, of St. Marys; Bradley Alan VanVoorhis, 19, of Weedville; and John Paul Gier, 23, of St. Marys.
The affidavit of probable cause was filed by Trooper Ronald E. Chewning, a member of the Troop C Pennsylvania State Police Ridgway Barracks, who was assigned to investigate the burglary on Oct. 26. In the affidavit, Chewning reported that "upon arrival [at the church], I found that the church had been broken into, items were missing and others damaged, as well as there being a dead deer lying in the front of the church. Through the actors' process of dragging the deer into the church, bodily fluids had leaked onto the floor, causing damage to the carpet."
Chewning acknowledged in the report that it was an anonymous tip which provided PSP with the names of those responsible for the damages.
According to Chewning, "PSP Ridgway Tpr. Monty Mitchell and Pa. Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer Doty McDowell conducted interviews of those individuals, who also provided written statements as to their actions in the hours between 1 and 6 a.m. on Oct. 26. From those interviews, it was concluded that the actors included Martin Andrew Chicola, John Paul Gier, Bradley Alan VanVoorhis, Brandon Charles Ott and Haley Elizabeth Heindl."
Based on those statements, the following timeline was established for the incident: the "actors were all drinking and playing cards at a residence in St. Marys and decided to go driving around. VanVoorhis and Gier were in VanVoorhis' truck and Chicola was driving a truck with Ott and Heindl as passengers. They drove to the VanVoorhis residence to drop off VanVoorhis' truck and VanVoorhis obtained a Ruger Black Hawn .22 caliber pistol. The group then left in the truck being driven by Chicola and traveled to the Spring Run Road area in Jay Township. Chicola and VanVoorhis exited the vehicle and shot a deer. Gier and Chicola then loaded the dead deer into the truck and traveled to the Gardner Hill area in Fox Township."
The information in the affidavit continued that "as Chicola drove them around, Heindl related that she had heard that the Gardner Hill Community Church was haunted and Chicola pulled into the church parking lot. Gier then proceeded to the front door of the church, forced the door open and went inside as Chicola, Ott, VanVoorhis, and Heindl followed. Once inside, VanVoorhis turned on the interior lights as Gier noticed a stereo and took it. They then proceeded to leave the church as Chicola fired the gun inside as he exited."
The actors then reportedly left the church, traveling "north on Gardner Hill Road and Gier exited the truck and damaged mailboxes belonging to the residences at 33 and 216 Shrubb Lane. Chicola then turned the truck around and traveled back to the Gardner Hill Church and backed up near the front door. Ott, Gier, and Chicola removed the deer from the truck and drug it into the church, placing it near the lectern at the front of the church. As they exited the church, Gier removed a wooden table from the rear of the church and threw it into the bed of the truck. They drove down the road again, stopped at a spring to wash the deer blood off of them and again returned to the church. Gier exited the truck and broke the front window of the church and returned to the truck."

Pick up a copy of the Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.

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