PENSACOLA, Fla. (WALA) - The deacon at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Pensacola said someone destroyed its statue of the Virgin Mary and made off with the statue's head.
For 25 years, a fiberglass statue of the Virgin Mary has stood inside the fountain at St. Mary's off Van Pelt Lane.
It was donated by the Catholic Filipino community in 1988.
However, on early Saturday, March 16, an act of vandalism toppled her.
"Father Dominic [Phan Sa] came out about 8:30 Saturday morning to get ready for Mass here at the church, and he noticed that the water wasn't bubbling up in the fountain and as he walked over here he saw it had been pushed down," said Deacon Stephen Wulf.
Wulf said it was then discovered that the statue's head was missing.
"We felt it was intentionally done because of the way the head was removed from the statue," said Wulf.
The suspect damaged the fountain's pipe system during the act of vandalism, and the cost to repair all of it will be steep - upwards of $20,000.
"You feel violated," said Wulf. "Why was this necessary?"
Escambia County Sheriff's deputies were called Saturday and they dusted for fingerprints, but did not find any.
A parishioner, however, provided investigators with a possible suspect.
St. Mary's has a 24-hour chapel for worship and the witness had showed up to pray.
"She was concerned for her own safety. Why was somebody walking around on church property at 3 o'clock in the morning?" she said.
She didn't learn about the damage to the fountain until later and put two-and-two together, providing investigators with a description.
"She said he was apparently in a white T-shirt, dark pants, was about five-foot-seven to five-foot-eight, and was a white male," said Wulf.
Deacon Wulf said some things need to be kept sacred and this crime has crossed the line.
St. Mary's Catholic Church hopes to have the fountain and statue repaired by August, just in time for the Feast of the Assumption.
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