Man sentenced to 20 years in prison for Odessa church robbery

Man sentenced to 20 years in prison for Odessa church robbery

ODESSA, TX (KWES) - A man convicted of robbing a woman at an Odessa church and pulling a knife on parishioners learned his fate Wednesday morning in Ector County's 161st District Court.

Jurors sentenced Nicholas Alexander Kempf to 20 years in prison for aggravated robbery and five years in prison for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after deliberating for less than an hour.

The January 2014 incident occurred during a Sunday service at Sherwood Baptist Church in the 500 block of East 42nd Street, according to arrest affidavits.

Kempf and another man, Timothy Ray Yanaga, snatched a purse hanging on a 65-year-old woman's walker and attempted to flee, authorities said.

"One of the church members jumped into his vehicle and chased after [Kempf] in his vehicle," said Odessa Police spokesman Cpl. Steve LeSueur. "The church member exited his vehicle and got out. [Kempf] pulled out a knife and pointed it at him, placing him in fear of his life."

Nearly 20 parishioners and church members rushed to help, according to Pastor Ivy Shelton, and managed to restrain Kempf and Yanaga until authorities arrived.

Ector County District Attorney Bobby Bland said Wednesday he was "deeply offended" by the case and considered Kempf's conviction an "important win" for prosecutors.

"[No] crime is acceptable, but to do it in a church is especially offensive," he said. "This violates the sanctity of a place where people go to worship."

Bland declined to discuss details of the pending case against Yanaga, Kempf's accused accomplice.

Kempf's two prison sentences will run concurrently, he confirmed.

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