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Mercy granted
in altar attack

Morgan DA honors wishes of members of Catholic church

By Sheryl Marsh 340-2437

Annunciation of The Lord Catholic Church parishioners asked Morgan County District Attorney Bob Burrell to have mercy on defendants who attacked their church altar, and he did.

Adam Joseph Turgeon and his girlfriend, Lisa Marie Wagner, will take turns doing jail time on split sentences.

Burrell said he is allowing this so that one of the two can be with the couple's infant child while the other serves time.

Turgeon and Wagner each pleaded guilty Wednesday in Morgan County Circuit Court to first-degree criminal mischief in the Oct. 2, 2005, attack on the Decatur church.

Burrell said church members "recommended mercy in the case" and he granted their wish.

He recommended a 10-year split sentence for each defendant. Wagner is to serve 60 days in jail and the remainder of her sentence will be suspended. She will be on probation for five years. Turgeon must serve 18 months in jail and the rest of his sentence will be suspended. He also will be on probation for five years.

In addition, each must pay $11,958 in restitution for the damage to the church altar, which was smashed during the raid. Each defendant also must serve 500 hours in a community service program.

Circuit Judge Sherrie Paler accepted the pleas and imposed the sentences. She dismissed third-degree burglary charges connected to the incident.

Wagner held the couple's baby as Turgeon stood before Paler, and Turgeon did the same when it was Wagner's turn.

Turgeon didn't speak when the judge asked if he had anything to say. Wagner, however, apologized.

Emily Loughman, 22, who pleaded guilty last week to criminal mischief, sat in the courtroom and read a Bible during Wagner and Turgeon's proceedings.

Loughman's plea agreement with Burrell is for a two-year sentence.

She has applied for probation, and Paler set her sentencing for May 17.

Paler granted youthful offender status to Loughman's 20-year-old husband in March.

His case is now sealed.

Wednesday's pleas brought closure to the church attack.

A parishioner who attended the court proceeding said she is pleased Burrell honored their request.

"We (church members) met, and it was a consensus that they should be shown mercy," said attorney Denise Hill. "That's who we are, Christians."

Parishioners at Mass on the day of the incident said the four defendants, all of Hartselle, entered the church and staged the attack right before communion. Parishioners said two of the four jumped from their seats and started screaming that Catholics worship idols, then one of the men shoved the altar, smashing it.

Wagner, 26 must check into the county jail on April 1. Turgeon, 27, is to check into the jail June 5 to begin serving his sentence.

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