Man arrested in St. Brendan's incident; may be a suspect in rash of church break-ins

A South Boston man is in police custody today after he allegedly ransacked the sacristy at St. Brendan's Church and was also caught trying to break into the parish rectory on Sunday morning. Boston Police are investigating whether the suspect, 44 year-old Michael Bagley, is the person responsible for a series of other break-ins at Dorchester churches in recent weeks.

Bagley was arrested on Sunday morning on Rita Road where he was spotted trying to force his way into the church rectory. Parishioners there became suspicious minutes earlier when they spotted him inside restricted areas of the church— which was also burglarized back in September.

Bagley was also charged with breaking into Blessed Mother Teresa Church on Columbia Rd., since he was found to be carrying an item that had been taken from that church earlier on Sunday morning. He was ordered to be held on $10,000 cash bail today in an arraignment in Dorchester District Court. He is due back in court on Dec. 10.

Bagley evidently has a history of breaking into houses of worship. In May 2010, he was arrested in Needham after he allegedly stole donations during a ceremony at Temple Beth Shalom.

Boston Police have been called to the scene of several area churches in recent weeks for reports of breaking and entering, most of them happening during the overnight hours. According to Boston Police Captain Richard Sexton, Area C-11 police have responded to break-ins and minor thefts at four different Catholic parishes since September.

Capt. Sexton says that similar church thefts have been reported throughout the city — and outside city limits in recent months.

"Mostly, [the intruders] have taken short money things- including coins from the poor box," said Sexton.

Other recent church break-ins have happened at St. Brendan's on September 27, St. Ann's on Neponset Ave. on October 15, St. Peter's Church on October 7, and St. Ambrose rectory on Oct. 17. Victory Chapel, a church on Columbia Road, was also hit on Oct. 24.

In the Oct. 17 incident, Rev. Jack Ahern — who lives in the St. Ambrose rectory— awoke to find an intruder rummaging through his bedroom dresser at 5 a.m. The man made off with his wallet and a few other personal items before Ahern scared him off. It is not yet clear whether that burglar was the same man caught at St. Brendan's on Sunday morning, but a BPD spokesperson says Bagley is considered a suspect in other thefts.

"As a matter of routine procedure, investigators will look into the possibility that this individual is connected to other similar crimes," said Elaine Driscoll, a spokesperson for the BPD.