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Man Pleads Guilty To Church Burglaries

October 11, 1995

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ A prison escapee who had more than 100 gold chalices and plates in his car when he was arrested last spring pleaded guilty Tuesday to stealing religious artifacts from three Roman Catholic institutions.

Authorities believe Robert Lee Dickson stole merchandise from several churches around the country, not just the three institutions near Buffalo that he pleaded guilty to burglarizing.

Dickson, also known as Gary Heinaman, faces 7 1/2 to 15 years in prison for criminal possession of stolen property, burglary and larceny, said state Supreme Court Judge Joseph Forma, who presided over the case. Dickson, 57, will be sentenced Nov. 30.

He admitted stealing a briefcase from St. Francis High School in Athol Springs, a gold chalice from Sacred Heart Academy in Amherst and a cash-filled bag from the Franciscan Sisters Chapel in Clarence.

Dickson was arrested in May after a priest confronted him in the friar’s residence at St. Francis High School in Hamburg, said Hamburg Police Detective Robert Williams.

Stolen religious items worth more than $240,000 were found in the trunk of his car after it was towed to an evidence garage.

After serving his prison time, Dickson will return to South Dakota to finish the last 10 years of a sentence for robbing churches in at least 10 communities there. He also will face trial for his 1993 escape, which could give him another eight years in prison.

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