Police arrest church robbery suspect

Feb. 12, 2013 @ 06:57 PM

Monroe police arrested a man Monday in connection with the New Year’s Eve robbery of attendees of a church at 725 Engleside Street.

Scottavais Lorenzo Hailey, 27, of 1630 Icemorlee Street in Monroe, has been charged in connection with the robbery.

Around 9 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2012, Monroe police responded to several reports of a man wearing a mask and carrying a large gun entering Iglesia de Dios EC Nueva Vida (New Life Church of God) at 725 Engleside Street in Monroe. The man reportedly never said anything but just pointed his gun at several people and grabbed five purses containing miscellaneous items and cash before running out of the church, according to a statement from the Monroe Police Department.

“It was easy for him I think because we were so few,” Leonel Bernal, pastor of Iglesia de Dios EC Nueva Vida, said.

He referred to there only being around 10 to 15 people in the church at the time of the robbery. The service that night wasn’t scheduled to start until 10 p.m., which is why there was only a small group inside of the church. He was preparing food in another part of the church at the time of the robbery and didn’t see it happen. He heard his daughter-in-law, who had a gun held to her head during the robbery call out but by the time he got to her, the robber had already fled, Bernal said.

“We’re praying for safety,” Bernal said when asked about the atmosphere of the church since the robbery.

To help improve safety, they’ve changed their locks and got the city to add a light post outside of the church. The Iglesia de Dios Nueva Vida has been at its 725 Engleside Street location since 2004. Besides the New Year’s Eve robbery, the only other robbery the church experienced happened in 2005. During that robbery, his daughter was hit in the head, Bernal said.

“We are praying for this community and praying for this man (Scottavais Hailey) if he can repent and come to the Lord,” Bernal said.

Hailey has been charged with five counts of robbery with a dangerous weapon and was placed in the Union County Jail under a $100,000 bond.

“I was scared and everything. I thought I was going to die when they pointed the gun,” Claudia Bernal, whose husband, Jonathan Bernal functioned as an interpreter for her, said.

Claudia Bernal was one of the women who had her purse stolen during the New Year’s Eve robbery.

Despite the robbery, she’s still attends the church and continues to praise the Lord, Claudia Bernal said.

Hailey fit the description of the suspect involved in the New Year’s Eve robbery. An investigation led to the discovery of the gun shown during the robbery and it was found that Hailey had been in possession of the gun at the time of the robbery, Sgt. Mike Smith of the Monroe Police Department said.