OLD BRIDGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Residents of Old Bridge, New Jersey, have been seeing a rash of vandalism and theft of lawn ornaments.
As CBS 2’s John Slattery reported, one couple was particularly disturbed over the disappearance of a statue of the Virgin Mary.
Darlene Burbridge and Vinnie Niemiec, who plan to get married a week from Saturday, had hoped the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary would be a centerpiece of the ceremony. But instead, the statue is gone.
“I noticed that the Virgin Mary was missing from the front of our house,” Niemiec said.
The 150-pound concrete statue was stolen from the front of Burbridge and Niemiec’s Old Bridge home late Tuesday night.
To Burbridge, 52, the statue is not just a sign of her faith, but also a family heirloom that came from Italy and has played a part in family celebrations for decades.
“To me, it’s my life,” Burbridge said. “It’s – I never remember; I never remember being without it from (the time I was) a little child to now.”
Four Old Bridge houses had a total of seven lawn ornaments stolen or vandalized.
Resident Scott Adams said the damage at his home was to nonreligious items. He said it began a week ago with a stolen bird decoy.
“This Tuesday, they stole the replacement decoy, two statues, they threw another statute and broke a statue,” Adams said.
Because the theft happened on the night of the Old Bridge High School graduation, police believe it was a string of teen pranks.
“My real gut feeling — knucklehead kids,” Niemiec said. “Knucklehead kids.”
Another Virgin Mary statue a few doors away has been placed in a more secluded area, and was not touched. But the heirloom that vanished is testing the virtue of forgiveness.
“I try not to get upset because they say turn the other cheek, and I do,” Niemiec said. “I’m just keeping the faith she’ll be returned to us.”
Niemiec and Burbridge said there will be no questions asked if the statue is brought back. They said whoever has the statue can either leave it at their home or at the Most Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic church.
Old Bridge police would not say if they were able to secure surveillance video of the incident.
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