A woman praying in the chapel
MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. -- A woman praying in the chapel of a Catholic church drove off an attacker by stabbing him in the neck with a pen early Wednesday morning, police said.
Police said they now have a suspect in custody.
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The 58-year-old woman was praying at the chapel of St. Joseph's Church in Middletown just after midnight, said Middletown Police Chief Matthew Byrne.
A man walked into the church and sat across the aisle from her in another pew, then left minutes later. When he returned he went over to the woman, reached into her shirt and grabbed her chest, Byrne said.
The woman was writing in a journal and used her pen to stab him. The man ran off, but the incident was recorded by the church's security cameras.
On Friday, a man with a history of psychiatric problems was arrested on charges in the attack on the woman.
The suspect, John Michael Petry, 44, has a extensive criminal record, including a sex abuse charge in 1981 and a lewdness charge in 2004, police said in a news conference Friday.
Petry was a patient at Middletown Psychiatric Center and has been homeless at some periods in recent years, living on and off at shelters, police said.
Petry, of Cornwall, N.Y., was arrested Thursday after an off-duty firefighter spotted him riding a bike, recognized him from the news and called police, Middletown Police Lt. Paul Rickard said Friday.
The tip from firefighter Michael Benedetto was one of many police received after the video broadcasts.
"We actually had people calling saying 'Hey, I think this guy is John Petry!"' Middletown Police Lt. Paul Rickard said.
Petry faces felony charges of attempted rape and sex abuse and misdemeanor charges of obstruction of governmental administration and resisting arrest. He was in jail Friday on $100,000 bail.
"A crime like this that occurs in a place of worship has a chilling effect on the community," said Byrne.
Middletown is 59 miles north of New York City.
Distributed by Internet Broadcasting Systems, Inc. The Associated Press contributed to this report.