DC vandalism suspect moved to halfway house; cop says footprint matches shoe

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Vandalism inside the National Cathedral

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Tread marks in a footprint at one of the sites of recent paint vandalism in Washington matched the tread on a shoe belonging to the woman charged in one of the incidents, a police detective testified Friday.

The testimony came during a probable cause hearing in District of Columbia Superior Court for Jiamei Tian, charged with destruction of property in the splattering of green paint in two locations inside the National Cathedral. A judge ruled that she will be released to a halfway house until her next hearing.

Judge Frederick Sullivan said Tian must wear an ankle monitor and that she will be allowed no social visits, meaning no one can visit her and she cannot leave the halfway house. It was unclear how quickly Tian would be released to the halfway house. A status hearing in her case was set for August 29.

The 58-year-old Tian was dressed in a navy jumpsuit and appeared calm throughout the hearing, during which the government called two law enforcement witnesses. Tian followed the proceedings with the help of an interpreter.

According to court documents, Tian had a visa allowing her to be in the United States that expired on Saturday. She had traveled on a Chinese passport.

Prosecutors argued after her arrest that she was a serious flight risk with no fixed address.

But the judge, explaining his ruling Friday to release her to a halfway house, said, “Holding somebody without bond is a very extreme remedy, which in many respects abridges a presumption of innocence.”

Tian was arrested Monday after paint was discovered splattered on an organ console and casework inside the historic Bethlehem Chapel, located in the National Cathedral’s lower level. A spokesman said the paint was wet when it was discovered. Paint also was found in the Children’s Chapel, located in the cathedral’s nave.

When officers arrested her, Tian had green paint on her clothes and shoes, and paint cans were found in three bags she had with her, according to a police report obtained by CNN.

If found guilty, she could face up to 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

U.S. Park Police say Tian is a “person of interest” in other recent paint incidents, including the splattering of green paint at the Lincoln Memorial and on a statue outside the Smithsonian Castle, but Park Police Sgt. Paul Brooks said the investigation into those incidents is still ongoing. No other paint incidents have been reported since Tian’s arrest on Monday.

At the hearing Friday, city police Detective Wai Tat Chung testified in the Cathedral case, saying another detective who investigated the Lincoln Memorial incident told him the tread on the suspect’s shoes matched a footprint found at that site.

“He said the shoe and the prints matched,” Chung told the court.

A fourth landmark in Washington – Luther Place Memorial Church — was also marred with paint last week. Church officials found green paint on a statue of Martin Luther and later the pastor and organist found white paint mixed with feces and urine splattered on the front of the organ and up onto the organ pipes and the chairs where the choir sits. After Tian’s arrest, witnesses at the church recalled seeing her in a service there on Sunday.

“There were a few people here incuding our pastor who recognized her from the TV,” said Jack Reiffer, the parish administrator at the church. Reiffer said police had taken paint samples from the church to compare it to the paint found at other sites.

By Athena Jones

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