Detectives slapped the cuffs earlier this week on a young man accused of breaking into houses of worship across Elmhurst and Woodside because he allegedly claimed to be mad at God and wanted to get even, prosecutors announced.
Joseph Woznik, 23, faces multiple counts of burglary, criminal mischief, petit larceny and grand larceny (each classified as hate crimes) as well as forgery, criminal possession of a weapon, criminal possession of stolen property and possession of burglar’s tools following his April 11 arrest.
“The defendant is accused of acting on his hatred of God to brazenly but ecumenically target various house of worship in Queens County to break into in order to steal cash and other items,” Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said in an April 12 statement.
According to the charges, Woznik allegedly broke into four churches and temples across Queens between March 21 and April 10 of this year. He allegedly hit one house of worship — St. James Episcopal Church at 84-07 Broadway in Elmhurst — three times in less than three weeks.
On March 24, prosecutors said, Woznik allegedly pried open the door to the church office and then removed a lockbox containing $1,800 in cash along with the lockbox key. He returned on April 3 and forced open the church office door, then ransacked the office and removed a Canon digital camera. Finally, on April 10, Woznik allegedly smashed a side window, then pried open the church office door once again and removed three checks from the church checkbook.
Woznik is also accused of removing cash from three donation boxes on March 21 at the Bangladesh Hindu Mandir Temple located at 94-39 44th Ave. in Elmhurst; a seal embosser on April 10 from St. Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Church at 42-14 74th St. in Elmhurst; and the contents of a pried-open donation box on April 10 inside Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians Church (a.k.a. St. Mary’s of Winfield), located at 70-31 48th St. in Woodside.
According to prosecutors, Woznik left plenty of evidence that helped members of the 110th Precinct Detective Squad tracked him down, including fingerprints off the donation boxes at the Bangladesh Hindu Mandir Temple. He was also spotted on security camera footage carrying out the crimes inside St. James Episcopal and Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians.
During questioning, law enforcement sources said, Woznik allegedly stated that he was “mad at God” and doesn’t “want to deal with religion.”
“I’m sick and tired of hearing about religion,” Woznik purportedly told detectives. “I don’t break into houses, only churches. I break in to get back at God.”
Woznik was ordered held without bail pending a psychiatric examination and is due back in court on May 11; if convicted, he faces up to 15 years behind bars.
Brown added that Woznik was additionally arraigned on charges that he is a fugitive of justice from Florida; he is accused of carrying out a burglary in the Sunshine State.