Priest, receptionist abducted from church

August 14, 1994|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Sun Staff Writer

The pastor of a Catholic church in Glen Burnie and a receptionist were abducted at knifepoint after a Mass yesterday by a man who forced the priest to drive to the Davidsonville area before locking him in the car's trunk, police said.

The Rev. Gene Nickol, 47, pastor of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, opened the trunk and jumped out of the car on a rural road off Defense Highway. The church receptionist, Aileen Pelsky, 66, jumped from the moving car moments later, police reported.

Both ran to safety at a nearby real estate office. Anne Arundel County police said they found the priest's abandoned car about five miles away on Patuxent River Road. Police had made no arrests last night. They had searched with dogs and state police helicopters all afternoon.

"It's got quite a few people shook up at this point," said the Rev. Gerry Bowen, a priest at the church. "I think we're all giving thanks to God. They are both lucky to be alive. It was a very dangerous situation."

Officer Maxwell Frye, a county police spokesman, said the ordeal lasted more than 2 1/2 hours, from 9:15 a.m. when the man knocked on the front door of the church rectory, until the priest called 911 minutes before noon from the real estate office in the 800 block of Central Ave. -- more than 15 miles south of Glen Burnie.

The spokesman said police did not know the reason for the abduction. Officer Frye said the man stole a small amount of money from Father Nickol, but investigators do not believe theft was the motive.

Police said the man was greeted at the rectory, in the 7400 block of Baltimore-Annapolis Blvd., by Ms. Pelsky, and he asked if he could talk to a priest.

She told the man that Father Nickol was conducting Mass, and she seated him in an office. She went into another room to pray. Police said the man walked into that room a short time later and asked for a drink of water.

After taking a drink, police said, the man got Ms. Pelsky in a choke hold and forced her down a hall to the kitchen, where he grabbed a knife and held it to her throat.

After the 9 a.m. Mass, Father Nickol searched for the receptionist and found her with the attacker in the basement. The man ordered both outside to the priest's car.

Police said the man ordered the priest to drive south. At Defense Highway, Father Nickol turned the car onto an unknown road and stopped. The abductor forced the priest into the trunk and told Ms. Pelsky to drive. Minutes later, the priest found a internal RTC latch and opened the trunk. He jumped out when Ms. Pelsky stopped the car. Moments later, Ms. Pelsky slowed the car and jumped out.

Police said both escaped with cuts and bruises.

Father Nickol, who has been at Holy Trinity for a year, did not want to talk about the incident.

But Father Bowen said the pastor, after talking with police, returned to the church and heard confessions. "He thought it would help him," the priest said.

CIt is not the first time violence has occurred at the church, which has 8,000 members.

Ten years ago, another pastor was stabbed at the parish center by a youth he had been counseling, Father Bowen said.

Police were searching last night for a black man in his 30s, about 6 feet tall with a medium complexion. He was wearing a red shirt with navy blue and gold stripes, khaki pants and two-tone boots. His first name may be Darryl.

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