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Alleged burglars in church Sunday, in court Monday

Three cousins pleaded not guilty Monday to burglarizing an apartment above a Redwood City church during services Sunday and fleeing from the congregation when confronted, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Daniel, John and Peter Beskalis, ages 18, 26 and 23, respectively, were arrested when they were found fixing a fence they damaged as they ran, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office.

They pleaded not guilty to burglary, grand theft, receiving stolen property, brandishing a deadly weapon, battery and vandalism charges, according to prosecutors.

The burglary was discovered at about 12:30 p.m. Sunday when the daughter of the deacon at Coptic Orthodox Church at 401 Hudson St. went upstairs to the apartment she shares with her father above the church and discovered that a laptop, cellphones, jewelry and cash had been stolen.

She came back to the service and told her father, who announced it to the congregation and said everyone should stay while they sorted it out.

But the three Beskalis cousins bolted out of their seats toward the door, prosecutors said. Some church members pursued them but two of the cousins allegedly turned and pointed pocketknives at the parishioners.

The cousins ran out of the church and into the yard of a nearby home, where they damaged a fence. The 74-year-old woman who lives there saw them and stopped them, demanding they fix her fence.

John Beskalis offered her $40 for the fence, but she refused, and handed him a hammer and told them to fix it. The cousins did as they were told. John and Peter Beskalis were working on fixing the fence when police arrived, with Daniel Beskalis standing nearby. They were all arrested.

Some of the stolen items were found in John Deskalis’s pockets while the rest was found in a bag hidden in the church, prosecutors said. The three are scheduled to return to court on Sept. 19 for a preliminary hearing.

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