The San Carlos City Council on Monday honored a San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office deputy and a detective for their efforts in solving the case of threatening notes sent to a local church.
Sheriff Deputy Jason Leone and Detective Jerri Cosens were presented with city coins for helping to maintain safety at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church at 149 Manzanita Ave. in San Carlos.
Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to the church on Jan. 10 after a threatening, hand-written note was discovered on church grounds. Over nine days, the suspect sent a total of four threatening notes, the sheriff’s office said. In the notes, he threatened to go to the church with a firearm and kill the pastor first and then other church members.
The “pastor and church members took the threat very seriously and were in sustained fear of the threats being carried out,” according the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office, which is currently prosecuting the case.
Deputy Leone subsequently met with the church’s council, provided a risk management plan and other information and stepped up security at the church. Detective Jerri Cosens joined the case, and along with Leone they canvassed neighborhoods, sent the threatening notes to the crime lab, followed up on leads and reviewed security camera footage from around the neighborhood. Meanwhile, the church installed its own security surveillance, which made a big difference. On Jan. 16, when the fourth and last threatening note was delivered, the suspect and his vehicle were capture on the newly installed church cameras. Within a couple of hours, the suspect was discovered to be a San Carlos resident who only lived a couple blocks from the church.
He was identified as Paul Michaelson, 79, an outreach and visitation pastor for Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church in San Mateo. The sheriff’s office told CBS News that Michaelson is a “former member of the San Carlos church and he had a personal disagreement with members of that congregation.” No further details have been provided about the motive.
San Carlos Mayor Ron Collins praised Leone and Cosens for their dedication to solving the case and to making the church feel safe.
“We have been blessed to have incredible police protection in our town for the last 10 years, and you guys are a great example,” Collins said.
The San Carlos church’s pastor and council president likewise commended their professionalism and dedication.
Leone was “honored and humbled” to be recognized, while Cosens expressed gratitude for the good outcome.
Meanwhile, Michaelson was arrested and charged with three felony counts of making threats. He is out of custody on a $150,000 bail bond and has been ordered by the court to have no contact with the San Carlos church and its pastor. While Michaelson appeared in court Feb. 22, he did not enter his plea as his attorney asked for one month to obtain medical records. The case is set for April 23 for entry of plea and to set a preliminary hearing date, prosecutors said.
Photo courtesy of the City of San Carlos