Firefighter helps nab church sex assault suspect

Posted: Updated:

A widely played surveillance video of a woman in a Middletown church fending off her attacker led to the arrest of a Cornwall man.

A 58-year-old woman was praying at St. Joseph's Church early Wednesday when she was sexually assaulted, police say. The woman fought back by stabbing the man in the neck with a pen she was using to write in her journal.

Police say 44-year-old John Michael Petry was arrested Thursday evening after an off-duty firefighter spotted him riding a bike and recognized him from the news. The firefighter, Michael Benedetto, called police. According to police, the tip was one of many received after the video broadcasts.

Police say Petry has been periodically homeless and has an arrest record dating back to 1981, including a sexual attack on a female cab driver in Chester. Petry faces felony charges of attempted rape and sex abuse and misdemeanor charges of obstruction of governmental administration and resisting arrest. He was in jail Friday on $100,000 bail.

Related InformationWoman sexually assaulted inside Middletown church

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