Zangrilli pleads guilty

MIFFLINTOWN – A former volunteer bookkeeper for Saint Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church in Mifflintown pleaded guilty on Tuesday to two of the three felony theft charges filed against her.

Mary M. Zangrilli, 59, wiped tears from her face as Judge Kenneth A. Mummah asked her if she understood her rights and still wanted to plead guilty to the charges. Zangrilli said she understood her rights and was guilty of the charges.

Zangrilli stole more than $248,000 from the church over a seven-year period beginning in 2005, according to court documents.

Zangrilli’s attorney Steven Manbeck and Juniata County District Attorney Cory Snook worked out a plea agreement, recommending she serve a minimum of two years in a state correctional facility. However, the court is not bound by the agreement between the attorneys and she could face a lengthier or lesser sentence than what the attorneys agreed upon.

Manbeck said his client has some medical conditions, something he would like Juniata County Probation and Parole to consider when conducting their pre-sentence investigation for the court to determine where her sentencing guidelines will fall.

Zangrilli remains free on bail and is tentatively scheduled to appear for sentencing on Oct. 1 in the Juniata County Court of Common Pleas.

After Zangrilli’s guilty plea, Juniata County Crime Victims Coordinator Sylvia Middaugh spoke with about a dozen parishioners and Rev. William Weary of Saint Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church outside the courtroom.

Middaugh encouraged parishioners to submit any written statements they want the judge to read when considering Zangrilli’s sentence.

Middaugh said she has already received about 14 statements from parishioners. It remains unclear at this time as to whether any of the statements will be read aloud during Zangrilli’s sentencing.

Weary said this case has saddened him and his parishioners.

“I know I have prayed for Mary Zangrilli,” he said, adding that he has stopped by her house to speak with her and the two of them are on good terms.

“At the same time, from the beginning, (we) wanted to combine mercy and justice. To that effect, (we) defer to the wisdom of the court, the rest we leave in the hands of God,” Weary said.

Details of the Zangrilli case

Both a private investigator and the Pennsylvania State Police conducted the investigation, which lead to the finding of more than 300 questionable checks made out to “cash” or to Zangrilli from the church’s bank account with the Juniata Valley Bank. The first check was dated Dec. 25, 2005.

Zangrilli was confronted by investigators and admitted to converting the funds for her personal use, which included two cruises, police said. Zangrilli also wrote an open letter to the parish apologizing for her actions and asking for forgiveness. The letter was published in the parish newsletter earlier this year.

In addition, it was discovered Zangrilli had been taking cash from the church. Zangrilli stated she took cash every week from Dec. 26, 2005 until Nov. 20, 2012 including the church’s tithe fund.

Investigators also looked into 88 suspicious checks in the Saint Jude Capital Campaign account at First National Bank. Again, these checks were also made out to Zagrilli or “cash,” police said.

Zangrilli told investigators she initially took the money to help with personal and medical expenses, because her husband had lost his job and she and her husband are both disabled, police said. Zangrilli claimed she initially intended to replace the money, but as time went on and she had not been caught, taking the money became “an addiction,” according to court documents.

The investigation concluded Zangrilli had a minimum of $2,000 a month from a source other than her legitimate income from Social Security and a pension, police said.