Neighbors suspect theft ring of baby Jesus figures from Nativity scenes
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Ariel Wilhite, 12, and Trinity Grace Wilhite 9, both of Olympia, look at the site where a baby Jesus figure was taken from a Christmas creche at the home of their grandmother, Merri Wilson, on South N Street in Port Angeles. -- Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Two Port Angeles women told police they suspect a baby Jesus theft ring is in operation after the lit plastic statues of the infant Jesus of Nazareth were stolen from several Nativity scenes in their neighborhood this week.

Kristina Russell and Merri Wilson are neighbors on South N Street in Port Angeles, and each display a light-up plastic Nativity set in their yards each year around Christmas.

“Usually we go out of town for Christmas, so we take it down,” Wilson said.

However, this year, Wilson’s grandchildren came to Port Angeles so the Nativity set, which includes plastic lighted figurines of Joseph, Mary, Jesus, an angel and a selection of farm animals, was still in the yard.

When they went to bed on Sunday night, all the figurines were still in the yard, Wilson said.

In the morning, the statue of the baby was gone, and so was her neighbor’s, she said.

Russell and her family drove around the neighborhood to see if other Nativity sets had also been robbed.

“Five of seven were missing their baby Jesus,” Russell said.

Russel said she spoke to the other Nativity set owners, each of whom said the thefts are an annual occurrence, and are often accompanied by the remaining pieces being moved into sexually suggestive positions.

Wilson and Russell called the Port Angeles Police Department to report the thefts.

They said they were impressed that an officer was dispatched to their homes instead of taking their reports over the phone.

The officer was professional, they agreed.

“I don’t know how he kept a straight face,” Wilson said, acknowledging the humor in the idea of a baby Jesus theft ring.

As of Tuesday, police had no leads in the disappearance of the baby Jesuses.

The Nativities can be expensive, since it often is difficult to replace missing parts.

“They stopped making the glow molds in the 1990s, and you can’t just buy a new piece,” Russell said.

“We had to go on eBay to buy used pieces at about $50 each.”

Russell’s husband had just finished building a stable for the set and added hay to complete the scene.

Since the theft, the Russells have brought the remnants of the plastic set inside.

“My husband and I are fed up,” she said.

This happened just as their 3-year-old son reached the age where he is beginning to understand Christmas, she said.

She said they don’t want to be forced to display their outdoor set indoors.

“We just want to be able to share our faith,” she said.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-417-3535 or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 20. 2011 6:12PM
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