State police arrested two 31-year-old men yesterday who troopers said stole a beloved winged statue from a Berks County shrine, cut it up, and sold the pieces for scrap metal.
Police at the Reading barracks charged John E. Hammond Jr. of Spring City and Jamie Lee Custer of Norristown with theft in the Sept. 24 disappearance of the
Angel of the Roses
The 1,200-pound, eight-foot-tall statue honoring a Roman Catholic saint was removed from its pedestal at the National Centre for Padre Pio on Barto Road in Washington Township. Police valued it at $60,000 to $100,000, though they said the thieves got only $952.
According to a police statement, Hammond and Custer backed a green Dodge Dakota pickup truck up to the statue and cut the four bolts that held it to a concrete urn, causing the figure to topple into the truck bed.
They drove the statue to Pottstown, where they rented a saw. They cut the angel into "manageable pieces," and sold the brass chunks to a scrap dealer in Conshohocken, police said.
State police did not return phone calls seeking more details.
The angel, cast in the 1930s, once stood in front of a public building in Sao Paulo, Brazil. It was acquired for $26,000 in 1999 by Vera M. Calandra, founder of the Padre Pio Centre.
Calandra's daughter, also Vera M. Calandra, said her mother, now dead, wanted the statue because the angel held five roses - one for each of Christ's wounds.
Padre Pio was an Italian friar born in 1887 in southern Italy. On Sept. 20, 1918, the five wounds of Christ's passion on the cross appeared on the friar's body, according to information on the center's Web site, making him the first priest marked by the stigmata.
Padre Pio died in 1968 and was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002.
The angel greeted visitors to the center's 100-acre property. "We are still very deeply saddened that she was not returned," Calandra said.
There are plans to replace the statue, she added.