By Cleve Bryan
MALAGA, N.J., (CBS) – Members of St. Mary’s Malaga are in disbelief after vandals smashed the heads off of statues of Virgin Mary and Jesus.
In all, nine statues were damaged including three statues that are about five-feet-tall – Sacred Heart of Jesus, Virgin Mary, and Our Lady of Fatima.
“For a statue to be defamed in this way in this very holy ground and this very holy church it is crushing to me,” says long-time parishioner Cynthia Hetzler.
Franklin Township Police believe the vandalism happened between 2 and 4 a.m. on Thursday. The parish has a 24-hour prayer group so someone is almost always at the sanctuary, but so far no witnesses have come forward.
Investigators say they’ll review surveillance from businesses down the street and are hoping for tips at (856) 694-1415.
Depending on what police learn, Chief Michael Rock says vandalism charges could be upgraded to a hate crime.
“If we could determine that this was the result of a bias incident then obviously the charges will be enhanced,” says Rock.
Spokesperson for the Camden Diocese Peter Feuerherd says upon looking at the damages it seems clear the person responsible has it out for the church.
“These are important symbols of the Catholic faith and in that way when you attack the symbols of faith you attack the faith,” says Feuerherd who assured Eyewitness News the church will go through insurance to have the statues rehabilitated if possible.