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Statue of Virgin Mary is stolen from Newport Beach church

November 19, 2008|Susannah Rosenblatt | Rosenblatt is a Times staff writer.

Wanted: one Virgin Mary.

The bronze statue on the front lawn of Our Lady Queen of Angels Church in Newport Beach went missing last week, and police are searching for the culprit.

Authorities suspect that the statue, worth an estimated $30,000, may have fallen victim to the recent rise in metal thefts.

Such thefts have increased in Newport Beach over the last year, with thieves snipping power cables, popping fire hydrant caps and snatching rain gutters off homes, said Newport Beach Police Lt. Craig Fox.

"I'm not sure where [thieves are] getting rid of the items," Fox said. "I would hope a 4- to 5-foot statue of the Virgin Mary would prompt someone to be suspicious."

Some church members think the thieves could use a refresher in the Ten Commandments. "I think it's tragic that in our civilization today that a statue right in front of a church is vandalized," said Mike Gigliotti, 59, president of the parish pastoral council. "What else can you protect anymore?"

The religious figure, her head bowed and hands clasped in prayer, sat atop a stone pedestal in front of the church, at Mar Vista and Domingo drives. It disappeared between 6 p.m. Friday and 8:15 a.m. Saturday, Fox said. Stealing from a church is, he added, "pretty tacky."

The greenish statue, contributed by a private donor about eight years ago, was created by Mexican sculptor Victor Salmones.

Newport Beach police are asking anyone with information about the statue to call (800) 550-6273.

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susannah.rosenblatt@latimes.com

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