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Friday, November 3, 2006

This Week in Extortion: The Predator Thief

Posted By on Fri, Nov 3, 2006 at 10:10 AM

Last spring, Mike and Maria Barnett of Podunk, Ohio, spent their days robbing sexual predators after being inspired by an episode of Dateline's "To Catch a Predator" series. (See Scene's "To Rob a Predator.") Their self-perceived "righteous" thieving came to an end this fall, after Mike Barnett was put in prison and Maria was deported to her native Italy. What would become of the couple's tumultuous, crime-ridden marriage remained unclear -- especially after Maria turned against her husband when describing events to the cops. But in a letter to Mike's father, Tom, Maria reveals that she wants Mike back in Rome, where she thinks he'll be able to escape his past as a convicted extortionist, and the two can build a better future together. Here's what Maria wrote:
Mike wants to talk to his lawyer. He said he needs to talk to him badly. I asked him for what and he said he wants to tell him that in Rome he has a job, that he makes good money, he works in a church and his mind is in peace. Plus he's getting religious. The new "moda" is now becoming catholic. He's gonna try to convert I guess once he is back, if he will come back. Plus you always told me that Mike needs to go to church. What's better than this? If he gets back he'll be working in a church, in one of the biggest and most important Catholic churches in the whole world (how many people get to work at the Vatican? Come on.....that's not that common) and plus he'll become Catholic too. You are Catholic yourself, so you know. That might be a big opportunity for Mike to get close to religion. He loves Catholic religion, so it'd be better is he'd come to Rome. So if he wants to become Catholic....why not let him do it? When Mike was here, he started to become more religious than he was when I first met him. To tell you the truth, when I first met him, he was not religious at all. Trust me. He was that kind of soldier who believed in War and all this stuff. Then after he started working at the Vatican, he slowly changed. Like as I told you once, he was always doing that gesture we do, like in the Father's name and Holy Spirit etc etc. he was doing it so much my mom thought he was making a fool of her since she's very religious. But she didn't understand he was serious. Then he started to talk to catholic priests. He talked to a lot of them while he was at the Vatican. One of them wanted to give him a special tour inside the secret rooms of the Vatican, the ones that are closed to the public, but he couldn't go that day because trains were on strike, as always. He saw the Pope almost every week. The old and the new One. He saw John Paul II for the last time, when he made the last apparition before he died, a week later. He saw him because he was in the Square, waiting for the mass to finish that way they could go in and start a Tour. And he saw the new Pope too when he was walking in the Square, like a week after he was elected. He said he saw him very very close. Coming back could help him a lot. Spiritually as well. Working in a church could be a good enviroment, especially for people who have PTSD or are fresh out of prison. What do you think? - Maria
-- Denise Grollmus

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