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updated: 7/2/2014 11:28 PM

Plea deal reached for Gurnee church vandal

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  • Meghan Heinze

      Meghan Heinze

 
 

A Gurnee woman who was captured on video vandalizing several places of worship in Lake County was sentenced to two years of probation Wednesday after she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of criminal damage to property.

Meghan Heinze, 22, also was sentenced to 150 hours of community service, and she was ordered to remain in psychological treatment while on probation. Heinze was sentenced to 180 days in Lake County jail, but that will be erased if she completes all terms of her probation, Lake County Judge Raymond Collins said.

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She was ordered to have no contact with one of the 21 houses of worship she vandalized, Collins said, and she's not allowed to have violent or threatening contact with the others. She is not allowed to take drugs or alcohol unless prescribed by a doctor, and she must submit to random drug testing and mandated psychological exams, he said.

Assistant State's Attorney Stephen Scheller said authorities reviewed the plea agreement with all the worship houses that were vandalized from Feb. 14 through Feb. 20. He said all signed off on the negotiated settlement before it was presented and accepted by Collins.

Scheller also said the vandalism spree -- she spray-painted obscene messages near the building entrances -- was motivated by a psychological disorder Heinze was suffering.

"We are confident this was not motivated by hate or ill will," Scheller said in court. "Ms. Heinze had some personal psychological issues, and all the churches accepted the plea agreement."

Heinze was ordered to pay restitution totaling $1,675 to three of the worship houses for damages. The remaining 18 did not seek restitution penalties because donations or volunteers addressed repairs, he said.

Defense attorney Evan Winer said Heinze was misdiagnosed by doctors and was suffering from "a serious psychological disorder" when she attacked the buildings. He said Heinze has since been properly diagnosed by new doctors and is on medication.

"I think (Lake County State's Attorney) Mike Nerheim deserves credit for realizing this girl is suffering from a serious psychological disorder, which controlled her actions," Winer said.

Heinze was arrested Feb. 28 for vandalizing 10 religious buildings in Gurnee, one in Libertyville, nine in Waukegan and one in unincorporated Lake County near Green Oaks.

She was charged with felony counts of criminal defacement of a place of worship, institutional vandalism, and criminal damage to a place of worship.

After spending 38 days in jail, Heinze was freed after posting the required 10 percent of her $500,000 bail.

Had she been found guilty of the most serious charge, she could have been sentenced to three to seven years in prison.

Authorities said Heinze admitted to the vandalism after her arrest, saying she was "angry with religion" and upset that people were "following a book written thousands of years ago."

She had no prior convictions, was working at a fast-food restaurant and attending classes at College of Lake County before her arrest.

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