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Vandals make off with Virgin Mary
A temporary replacement statue stands in place of the handmade Italian marble likeness of the Virgin Mary that was taken from St. Thomas’ on Saturday. - photo by SABRA STAFFORD / The Journal
A handmade Italian marble statue of the Virgin Mary was vandalized and stolen from a Turlock church Saturday night and the entire incident was caught on surveillance video.
The St. Thomas Assyrian-Chaldean Catholic Church was not the only house of worship to be vandalized over the weekend. The First Presbyterian Church, located just a few yards from St. Thomas’ was also burglarized and ransacked.
The video from St. Thomas’ shows one man in a sleeveless shirt run up the fountain steps and forcefully push the statue out of the grotto, sending it toppling down to the ground and smashing the head.
The man runs off into the darkness and moments later a four-door sedan is seen driving away from the church. The car stops a short distance away and three men are then seen running back to the statue. One man in a long-sleeve shirt picks the statue up and runs back to the car with it.
Parishioners arriving for mass on Sunday morning found the broken shards and the statue missing.
“Everyone was very, very sad and mad and asking ‘why did this happen to the Virgin Mary,’” said Albert Benjamin, a committee  member at the church.
Benjamin said the church installed the security camera about a month ago because someone had tried to break into a donation box outside the church.
The statue of the Virgin Mary was custom-made in Rome and is valued at $3,000. It had been installed at the church about two years ago, Benjamin said.
St. Thomas Assyrian-Chaldean Catholic Church is located at 2901 N. Berkeley Ave., just about a block down from another church that was vandalized.
The First Presbyterian Church at 2619 N. Berkeley Ave. was broken into sometime between Friday and Saturday afternoon, said Lisa Landis, an administrative assistant at the church.
The burglary was discovered around 4:30 p.m. Saturday. A window of a modular building used for youth activities was smashed in and the thief or thieves took some cash, soda and ice cream, and left behind a television and video equipment, Landis said.
The room was also ransacked and writings were left on the walls.
It is unknown if the two incidences of church vandalism are related or if they were two random occurrences.
Anyone with information on either case is asked to contact the Turlock Police Department at 668-5550.
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.