State

'Our Lady of Turlock' statue smashed, stolen

TURLOCK — A surveillance camera caught three men smashing and then stealing a statue of "Our Lady of Turlock" that stood in a fountain outside St. Thomas Assyrian-Chaldean Catholic Church.

Parishioner David Yonan, 49, said he arrived at the church, near East Monte Vista and North Berkeley avenues, at 7 a.m. Sunday to find the statue of the Virgin Mary missing. The vandalism happened about 11 p.m. Saturday, according to the video's time stamp.

"It was devastating," Yonan said. "All the ladies were sitting there crying. It looked like a funeral."

The surveillance video shows a man climbing the steps of the fountain, then throwing the $3,000, Italian-made statue to the ground. Another man comes and takes the damaged statue. All that was left were porcelain shards that once made up the back of the statue's head, Yonan said.

"The way he hits her, it's like he's mad at somebody," Yonan said of the man in the video. "Why would somebody want to do this?"

Yonan said the third man watched the vandalism and left with the other two men.

Churchgoers at St. Thomas say they want to find the damaged statue and hope the surveillance video will help police find the suspects. In the meantime, a smaller statue of Mary has been put in the place where the stolen statue stood.

Anyone with information about this crime can call Sgt. Russ Holeman at 668-5550, ext. 6753, or Crime Stoppers at 521-4636.

Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at mbalassone@modbee.com or 578-2337.

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