SANTA MARIA - 24 year old Amanda Ruiz of Santa Maria is accused of going on a bizarre and destructive crime spree that targeted the St. John Neumann Catholic Church in northwest Santa Maria Thursday morning.
When the first firefighters arrived on scene just after 3:30am Thursday morning, smoke was billowing out of the church, one of the glass doors had been smashed in with an unusual scene unfolding inside.
"When the first firefighter came inside, he could hear the person who had done all the damage playing the piano", said Santa Maria Fire Chief Dan Orr, "and that was very unsettling."
The flames were isolated to a rear portion of the church where Ruiz allegedly set fire to collection baskets, liturgical and music books.
Amanda Ruiz has a record of drug offenses and authorities say she'd just been released from county jail and was under the influence when firefighters and police were called to the church.
The controlled substance she was on gave her unbelievable, I believe it took seven offices to get her into the patrol car.
The area surrounding the church is a modest, working class neighborhood with some neighbors having spent their whole lives across the street.
"Crazy, shocking", says church neighbor Jose Nevarez, "I mean I know we have a drug problem in Santa Maria, but its crazy."
Amanda Ruiz is accused of shattering the church's stained glass windows and desecrating a statue of St. John Neumann himself.
"So this parish is truly the center of their lives in many respects", says Chief Orr, "so for this to happen is going to be devastating for this part of the city."
Thursday, May 23 2013 1:29 AM EDT2013-05-23 05:29:02 GMT
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