News Release News Release The City of Palo Alto
Communications Department
250 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301


Subject :

Woman Arrested for Church Burglaries
Contact : Brian Philip, Detective Sergeant, Police    650-329-2413
Police arrested a woman over the weekend for burglarizing the same church twice.  She was also found to be in possession of property stolen from a local school.

On Sunday, March 15, 2015, at about 12:33 a.m., our 24-hour dispatch center received a call from an employee of the Trinity Lutheran Church, located at 1295 Middlefield Road.  The caller reported that, 15 minutes earlier, the church's alarm had been activated and its surveillance cameras had captured footage of a female intruder inside.  Officers immediately responded to the church but did not find anyone inside. 

At about 1:20 a.m. an officer patrolling the downtown area spotted a woman walking on the 200 block of Lytton Avenue who resembled the burglar depicted in the Church’s surveillance footage.  When confronted, she acknowledged being inside the church.  A search of the woman’s belongings yielded a key to the Trinity Lutheran Church, as well as keys to several other downtown area businesses.

The investigation revealed that the suspect was also responsible for a burglary of the Trinity Lutheran Church on February 9, during which a small amount of cash, donated by parishioners, was stolen from a church office.  In addition, documents found in the suspect’s possession at the time of her arrest were later found to have been stolen from the Montecito Preschool, located at 1468 Grant Road in Los Altos.

Detectives are working to determine if any of the other buildings for which the suspect possessed keys were victims of recent burglaries.  It is unknown at this time how she obtained the stolen keys.  The Los Altos Police Department is conducting follow-up investigation concerning the school theft.  School officials were unsure when the theft occurred. 

Police booked the suspect, 70-year-old Ethel Jean Hays of San Francisco, into the Santa Clara County Main Jail for two counts of burglary (one for each of the burglaries of the Trinity Lutheran Church), and possession of stolen property (related to the property stolen in Los Altos).  A booking photo of the suspect is attached to this release. Also attached is a still surveillance image of the suspect from Sunday’s burglary. 

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call our 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413.  Anonymous tips can be emailed to or sent via text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.  Tips may also be submitted anonymously through our free mobile app, downloadable at or