Zelienople man in church threat case faces judge

Lawyer asks that hearing be waived, citing mental health

September 11, 2019 Cranberry Local News

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Edwin G. Leech, who is charged with making terroristic threats and other related charges, waived his hearing for reasons of mental health Friday morning.

CRANBERRY TWP — A man accused of making terroristic threats and other charges at a township church last month waived his preliminary hearing Friday.

Edwin G. Leech waived the hearing for reasons of mental health.

“I want you to get better,” District Judge David Kovach told the 43-year-old Zelienople man.

Leech was charged following comments he allegedly made at Victory Family Church along Route 19 during a 6 a.m. prayer meeting Aug. 21.

According to police documents, Leech sat away from other meeting attendants and questioned the speaker. He allegedly made a statement about being the “second messiah.”

According to the affidavit, Leech said, “This is how mass shootings happen; I have mental problems.”

The church was placed on lockdown following the incident.

Leech and his attorney, Michael DeRiso, appeared before Kovach. DeRiso asked that Leech's hearing be waived, citing the state of his mental health at the time of the incident.

Kovach supported the move.

“I feel a lot better,” Leech said. “I really appreciate your help. We're going in the right direction.”

Leech praised officials involved with his case — including Kovach — who provided resources to improve his mental health.

“I think you're going to get better,” Kovach said.

After leaving the district judge's office, Leech told reporters he became upset after hearing the church's interpretation of Scripture, which was very different from his beliefs.

Leech alleged a church security officer didn't properly identify himself and pushed him around during the incident.

The case now moves to the Court of Common Pleas.

Leech's bond was increased to $100,000 from $50,000. Leech can either pay the bond or go directly to a mental health facility for inpatient treatment. In the meantime, he remains at Butler County Prison.

Leech is charged with terroristic threats causing the evacuation of a building, a third-degree felony; disorderly conduct, a third-degree misdemeanor; and defiant trespass, a third-degree misdemeanor.

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