CARROLLWOOD, Fla. -- The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office needs your help finding a tall, heavy statue stolen from a Catholic church in the Carrollwood area.
The five-foot-tall statue weighs at least 100 pounds and disappeared from a garden outside the church on April 7. The church reported the crime on April 12 after ensuring the statue wasn't moved by maintenance or landscaping teams.
The statues outside St. Paul’s Catholic Church off North Dale Mabry Highway and Stall Road have a significant purpose, paying tribute to the congregation’s international heritage.
That's why the disappearance of the resin statue of St. Francis of Assisi is crushing to church members and leaders.
“I think it’s terrible. I don’t know why a person would do such a thing,” member Katia Scoz said with a sigh.
Church members say the statue was glued to a boulder inside the Sonto Nino shrine area. That boulder is now split in two.
“I don’t know how they moved it, how did they do that?” Karvel Toranzo, who is also a church member, said with bewilderment.
Father Bill Swengros thinks the theft may have been part of a prank.
“My guess is that they just used a lot of brawn to pull it over and break apart the rock that it was sitting upon. It was likely some kid playing a prank and maybe they'll return it.”
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office says the statue is valued at $10,000. Yet to the congregation, it is much more. The statue was a gift from a former church leader.
“We’d love to have it back. If someone has it in their trunk or their backyard, just return it. No questions asked,” Father Swengros added.
Church members hope a message inscribed at the garden’s entrance which reads "May all who come to this sacred space find god, hope and peace" holds true for whoever was bold enough to steal the statue.
“If you don’t return it back, we will keep praying for you and hopefully you will change your heart,” Toranzo said with a smile.
Anyone who locates the statue or anyone with information related to this theft is asked to call the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office at 813-247-8200. In order to be eligible for a cash reward, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477).