Religious statues beheaded at Gloucester County church

MALAGA, N.J. - September 19, 2013

Police say the vandalism is being investigated as a hate crime.

"Just evil," said Veneranda Ramos, a church member of 40 years. "Evil in the world today, there is just evil."

The sight brought tears to the eyes of parishioners.

"I was just crying a little while ago," said Michael Cianchetti. "It is a very sad thing to do to these things. There is no reason for it."

Peter Feuerherd of the Diocese of Camden doesn't believe this was a random act of vandalism but rather a violent attack on the Catholic faith.

"This was beyond young people having nothing to do and being reckless," Feuerherd said. "You can see the heads were chopped off the statues. Somebody had to work hard at that."

A total of nine statues were hit between 2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. Thursday morning, including statues of Jesus, The Blessed Virgin Mary and Our Lady of Fatima.

"At this time we do not have any suspects," said Chief Michael Rock of the Franklin Township Police. "But we would like to ask the community come forward with any information they have to help us identify these suspects."

Police say while they didn't know how the heads were removed, they said the statues may have been struck with a baseball bat.

For now, investigators are reviewing surveillance video from a liquor store down the street.

"I haven't seen anything like this and I have been an officer in this township for 26 years," Rock said.

There was a nocturnal prayer service at the church overnight and police are interviewing parishioners who were there during those early morning hours.

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