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Intruders Desecrate 3 Religious Statues : Vandalism: Stained-glass windows are broken to enter a Glendale Catholic church. Police will investigate it as a hate crime.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Vandals broke two stained-glass windows to enter a Glendale church, then smashed the heads of three treasured religious statues, police said Thursday.

A member of the parish made the discovery when she unlocked the doors of Holy Family Catholic Church, 209 E. Lomita Ave., to prepare for Thursday morning Mass.

Glendale police said intruders apparently used a rounded piece of wood to shatter the heads of the near life-size, hand-painted plaster statues of Mary, Joseph and the child Jesus that stand behind a metal railing in the vestibule.

Parish members said the statues have been in prominent locations at the church and its parochial school since they were donated by a parishioner about 60 years ago. Clara Mihm, who has been attending Holy Family since 1937, saw the damage when she arrived for the Thursday morning service.

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“I really got sick, and I started to cry and I couldn’t stop,” she said. “I can’t see why anybody would want to do it.”

Because the only apparent motive was the desecration of religious objects, Glendale police Agent Christopher Loop said the break-in will be investigated as a hate crime. Police believe intruders climbed atop a roof and broke a stained-glass window in an initial attempt to enter the church. But the vandals found that the sanctuary floor was about 35 feet below the window--too far to jump.

The intruders then broke a ground-level window, climbed into the vestibule, smashed the statues and fled, police said. Church officials estimated it will cost $5,000 to $10,000 to restore the statues and windows.

“It’s a sad reflection on our times,” said Gerry Hegarty, who takes care of the religious articles at Holy Family. “When I came here 16 years ago, the church was open all night and parishioners would come and go at all hours. It was safe.

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“But the changing face of Glendale doesn’t allow that anymore. Now we have to lock the church at night and use a burglar alarm.”

Msgr. Arthur Lirette, pastor at Holy Family, speculated that an angry, mentally unstable person broke in and smashed the statues.


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