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Not guilty plea from unusually dressed man accused of stealing electronic equipment from church

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A man who allegedly tried to steal musical instruments and electronic equipment from an Allied Gardens church while wearing an unusual ensemble pleaded not guilty Thursday to burglary and grand theft charges.

Joshua Mahlon Baker, 39, was arrested shortly after the March 7 early-morning break-in at Palisades Presbyterian Church in the 6300 block of Birchwood Street.

Baker made $25,000 bail and was scheduled to be arraigned March 15, but his arraignment was postponed until Thursday to give him time to hire a lawyer.

Baker was brought to court in handcuffs, and his attorney, Charles Luckman, successfully urged Judge David Szumowski to hold the defendant without bail and exonerate his current bond.

Asked outside court to explain the move, Luckman told reporters that there is an ongoing investigation into Baker and he would likely have been re-arrested had he tried to walk out of the courtroom after arraignment.

Szumowski set a readiness conference for May 3 and a preliminary hearing for May 24.

On March 7, an area resident called 911 after seeing a tall person dressed in what appeared to be an oversized T-shirt and a sparkly purple tutu loading a guitar amplifier into a truck outside the church shortly after 4 a.m., according to San Diego police.

Police said officers found Baker carrying a trash can filled with property stolen from the church while wearing a white piece of cloth draped over the upper part of his body and a scarf-like covering around his waist, with nothing underneath.

Seeing the officers, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Baker dropped the trash can and ran, police said.

Officers gave chase as Baker climbed over a chain link fence, losing the scarf-like covering in the process, according to police. Moments later, he was taken into custody.

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