A Lehigh County man was charged with murder yesterday after shooting to death a church leader at a fund-raising event Sunday night in Delaware as about 80 fellow guests looked on, Delaware State Police said.

Monir George, 58, of Whitehall, was being held without bail at the Howard Young Correctional Institute in Delaware after the incident at the Hilton Christiana, police said.

George, armed with two semiautomatic handguns, attended the fund-raiser and started shooting after Malak Michael, 63, the head of the committee in charge of building a new facility, had finished a presentation, State Police Cpl. Jeffrey C. Whitmarsh 2d said in a news release.

Police said the fund-raiser was to help congregants of the St. Mary Coptic Church build the facility in Elkton, Md.

Whitmarsh said George was a member of the church and "had some differences with the church" about its policies, doctrine and the building of the new church.

Scores of people attending the fund-raiser witnessed the incident, which occurred about 7 p.m. in a banquet room at the hotel, located about seven miles south of Wilmington, police said.

Whitmarsh said Michael, a resident of Bear, Del., died from a single shot to the chest.

George is identified in public records and in past news accounts as a Lehigh County veterinarian who was burglarized and targeted in an extortion scheme eight years ago.

Three men and one woman admitted threatening to firebomb George's veterinary clinic in 2000 if he did not give them a cat anesthetic sometimes used as a recreational drug. George called the incident "very traumatic," but said he was concerned for the well-being of the young suspects.

"We all have children," he told The Morning Call of Allentown at the time, "and don't want to see someone else's die because of stupidity."

Contact staff writer Emilie Lounsberry at 215-854-4828 or elounsberry@phillynews.com.