Statues of Virgin Mary destroyed in Cherry Hill

Statues of the Virgin Mary were vandlized in front of two Cherry Hill churches on July 12, 2011.

July 13, 2011 4:35:09 AM PDT
In this Action News Exclusive, police in Camden County are investigating the vandalism of two sacred statues.

Cherry Hill police say it was about 6:30 a.m. Tuesday that the first senseless act was discovered in front of the St. Thomas More Catholic Church in the 1400 block of Springdale Road.

An 8-foot tall statue of the Virgin Mary, which stood with arms stretched at the center of the church bell tower, was knocked to the ground from its pedestal.

The 300 to 400 pound statue made of white Italian marble broke in three pieces.

Then a little later and just a few minutes away, police discovered that a three-foot tall marble statue of Mary and the baby Jesus was violently knocked from its pedestal in front of the Queen of Heaven Catholic Church on West Route 70 and Connecticut Avenue and smashed into a number of pieces.

"I would imagine that they're very expensive and I don't think you can put a dollar amount on the value they have for the people of that church," Lt. Bill Kushina of the Cherry Hill Police said.

Police believe the statues were vandalized overnight within minutes, if not hours of each other. No video or surveillance pictures were recovered from either site.

Although the damage was particularly pernicious, police presently are not classifying the acts as hate crimes.

"It's summertime, the kids are out. Hopefully, it's a kid that did something stupid and not a hate crime, but we'll investigate it fully to see exactly what kind of crime it is," Kushina said.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Camden was unaware of the incidents.

But, whatever they turn out to be, for parishioners, acts like these are reminders that what is sacred to some is simply seen by others as an invitation to desecrate.

"Someone obviously is trying to send a really horrible message and it's just not right. It really isn't," parishioner Tony Prudente said.

Police believe someone may have seen something as they were passing by on Route 70 or may otherwise have information which could lead to the culprits.

Anyone with information is asked to call police.