Couple arrested after church workers fear child sacrifice

ROCHESTER — A Farmington woman who allegedly said she wanted to “sacrifice” at least one of her children in a local church on Wednesday is scheduled to face child endangerment charges in court today, along with her boyfriend.

Nicole M. Mancini, 29, of 8 Peaceful Pines Circle in Farmington and John L. Thurber, 35, of Four Rod Road in Rochester, were arrested at St. Mary Church, 71 Lowell St., about 3 p.m. Wednesday after church staff called police.

Parish secretary Donna Landolfi yesterday said she was one of three church staff members working when Mancini arrived at the church office sometime after 2:45 p.m. Wednesday. Landolfi said Mancini was dressed in pajamas and had her three sons, as well as Thurber, with her.

According to Landolfi, police were called after “(Mancini) said, ‘I need to place my child on the altar before three o’clock.’ As she walked down the corridor, she said the word ‘sacrifice.’ That told me we were dealing with an extreme situation,” Landolfi said.

Police charged Mancini and Thurber each with three Class A misdemeanors of endangering the welfare of a child, according to Rochester police Lt. Paul Callaghan. Thurber also was charged with one Class A misdemeanor of possession of marijuana.

Under state law, a Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year in jail.

“Our investigation has led us to believe they wanted to sacrifice all three of them,” Callaghan said yesterday of the children. “That’s why they’re both charged.”

Police did not recover any weapons or drugs that could have been used to harm the children, Callaghan said. He said the three boys did not appear to be injured and that the children were placed in DCYF custody after the incident.

Police listed the boys’ ages as 9, 7, and 2 years old and said Thurber is the father of the youngest boy.

Callaghan said Thurber and Mancini earlier had stopped at “one prior church” in Farmington but could not get in. They then went to St. Mary’s, about a half mile from Route 125 in southern Rochester, according to police.

Callaghan said Mancini and Thurber were taken into custody without struggle.

“It’s a bizarre case,” he said.

Police had not searched the homes of Mancini or Thurber as of yesterday afternoon, Callaghan said. The couple were evaluated at Frisbie Memorial Hospital in Rochester after their arrests, said Callaghan, who declined to comment on whether the couple was under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the incident.

Mancini and Thurber are each being held in the Strafford County House of Corrections in lieu of $25,000 cash bail. They are scheduled to appear in Rochester District Court today at 1 p.m.

Church secretary Landolfi said yesterday that Mancini was intent on getting into the church and that she told church staff they could not stop her from going to the altar.

“We could tell this woman was not all right,” Landolfi said yesterday. “She said, ‘Let’s go make the sacrifice.’”

Landolfi said she dialed 911 after she heard Mancini say “sacrifice.”

“She had a mission. She wanted to put her child on the altar,” Landolfi said.

After Mancini left the office and headed toward the church’s main worship area, Sister Lucie Ducas, a St. Mary employee, followed Mancini and talked to her in a gathering room outside the main worship area, Landolfi said.

“She has good people skills and she just sort of followed them and talked to her,” Landolfi said.

Mancini then sat down in front of a statue of Jesus as if she was going to pray. Five police cruisers arrived soon after, Landolfi said.

Keywords: Nicole Mancini and John Thurber

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