Couple accused of South Whidbey church burglary

A man and woman are facing charges for allegedly stealing from a South Whidbey church last week, according to court documents.

Prosecutors charged Ernest W. Zelnick, 24, and Margaret C. Schwantes, 43, in Island County Superior Court Nov. 28 with burglary in the second degree and theft in the third degree.

A deputy with the Island County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of a burglary at the Christian Life Center in Freeland Nov. 21. Two people entered the church and stole money, food and small electronics, the police report states.

A church employee told the deputy that the security system had captured a close-up video of a man as he was unplugging a camera; the system also captured the sound of a woman’s voice, the report states.

In addition, a custodian who worked at the church reported seeing a small blue hatchback car in the church parking lot.

The image of the suspect was distributed throughout the department and another deputy identified him as Zelnick, the deputy wrote. The deputy also said Zelnick lives in a small blue hatchback with his girlfriend, Schwantes.

The deputies found the car parked in Freeland and arrested Zelnick on suspicion of burglary. The deputies also contacted Schwantes at her work; she allegedly admitted that she was with Zelnick in the church because they were looking for food, the report states.

If convicted of the charges against them, Zelnick and Schwantes could face up to 364 days in jail under the standard sentencing range.

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