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Murrieta Man Pleads Not Guilty To Stealing Church Money

Jared Lee Burkholder, 33, allegedly took money from the safe of a church where he worked.

A Murrieta man accused of stealing money from an area church pleaded not guilty today.

Jared Lee Burkholder, 33, a former Temecula choir director, stood trial today on embezzlement charges.

He could face up to three years in prison if convicted of the felony offense, stemming from the alleged theft of thousands of dollars from Calvary Baptist Church at 31807 Nicholas Road.

Burkholder entered his plea before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Jerry Johnson, who appointed him a public defender. Johnson also left Burkholder's bail at $5,000 and set a felony settlement conference in the case for Friday.

Until his February arrest, Burkholder had been the music coordinator for the church. Co-workers alleged the defendant had been stealing money for more than a year by the time they contacted investigators, according to Riverside County sheriff's Sgt. Terry Jones.

The amount allegedly taken was reported to be in the thousands, but an exact figure was not disclosed.

"Burkholder was seen coming out of an office where the (church) safe was located," Jones said. "Employees reviewed the video surveillance system and witnessed Burkholder take ... currency from the safe."

The defendant had been working at the chapel for about 10 years, during which time both he and his wife were members of Calvary's congregation.

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