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UPDATE: Police catch suspects in purse-snatching at Hudson church

Edina, Minn., police on Monday arrested two 18-year-old men suspected of snatching purses from First Baptist Church of Hudson the previous day.

Apprehended at the Southdale shopping mall after trying to pass stolen and forged checks were Matthew Zajic and Dylan Steeves, both of whom were said to live at the same Eagan, Minn., address.

Molly Anderson, the public information officer for the Edina Police Department, said Zajic tried passing a check at an Ulta Cosmetics store, and Steeves attempted to make a purchase with a stolen check at an Apple Computer store.

Store employees alerted police of their suspicions that the checks were stolen.

Anderson said the two men were arrested at the mall, along with two female juveniles who were waiting for them in a car. She said the car had stolen goods inside and was impounded by the police.

The men attempted to pass checks for a business belonging to Connie Swain of River Falls, whose purse was one of two stolen from First Baptist following Sunday's 10:30 a.m. service. A purse belonging to Dolores DeMers of Roberts also was stolen.

The thieves took Swain's and DeMers' bibles as well.

Hudson Police Detective Jeff Knopps said the suspects ran up several thousand dollars in charges on the victims' credit cards at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., within a short time of the thefts.

The women had left their purses and bibles in a pew at the back of the sanctuary while they socialized over coffee in the church annex following the service.

Two men entered the church after the service. When a church member asked if he could assist them, the men said they were there to pick up an elderly woman they had dropped off for the service. The church member led them to the annex, but didn't see them connect with anybody.

WCCO-TV (Channel 4) aired a report on the crime on its Jan. 26 10 p.m. newscast. Swain and DeMers were interviewed sitting in the pew where their purses and bibles were snatched. They said it hadn't occurred to them that they needed to be concerned about their purses in church.

They also said they didn't bear any ill-will toward the thieves -- but hoped they would turn their lives around and visit First Baptist again, the next time as worshippers.

Pastor Randy Fredrikson told the TV reporter that the thieves didn't arouse suspicions because First Baptist is used to welcoming visitors.

Zajic and Steeves were taken to the Hennepin County Jail, and released on bond after making their initial court appearance, according to Anderson. She said the two girls also faced charges.

A spokesperson in the district attorney's office said Zajic and Steeves likely will be charged with theft in St. Croix County.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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