The "Homeless Jesus" sculpture was a fixture in front of New Life Evangelical Center until it was stolen.
Have you seen Jesus?
A bronze statue of the sleeping son of man was sawed off its base in front of New Life Evangelical Center and hauled away in a crime that played out in a bizarre series of events this week.
"It was a real shock," the Rev. Ray Redlich tells the RFT
The caper began on Tuesday night. As the city was tallying votes in the mayoral primary, a resident of the Terra Cotta Lofts on Locust Street in Downtown West spotted someone with a power saw crouched at the base of the sculpture known as "Homeless Jesus," which features the deity sleeping beneath a blanket on a park bench.
New Life installed the sculpture, a replica of the original by Canadian artist Timothy Schmaltz, outside what was then an active overnight homeless shelter about five years ago, thanks to a donation.
Police say the caller on Tuesday described seeing the suspect and a black pickup truck in front of the statue in the 1400 block of Locust. When officers arrived, they found the 57-year-old man and pickup in the next block. Inside the truck was a gas-powered saw, police say. The man was taken into custody and later released pending the application of a warrant.
Three of the bench legs had been sliced, but a rod that bore most of the weight was still in place, Redlich says. It seemed a would-be thief had been thwarted.
"We thought that was the end of it," Redlich says.
It wasn't. This morning, staffers were checking the perimeter of the building when they discovered that the sculpture had been completely severed from its base and hauled into the street. Redlich says they tried to drag it back, but it was too heavy. They went inside to figure out what to do next, and when they returned less than fifteen minutes later, it was gone.
The thief left only the stubs of the sculpture.
Redlich says they've made a new report to police. He suspects Tuesday night's sawing is connected to this morning's theft, but he can't say for certain.
He remains hopeful Homeless Jesus will be found and returned. The sculpture was meant as a message to anyone who saw it.
"We felt that this would be a real witness to the community as far as who Jesus is, what he stands for and that he identifies with the homeless," Redlich says.
New Life is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the return of an intact sculpture. Anyone with information can call the center at 314-421-3020.
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