Early this December, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania resident Jacqueline Ross was charged with theft and institutional vandalism when she stole the baby Jesus figurine from a nativity display and left it at the local St. Luke's hospital in a “safe spot” drop off for newborns. She later told police that the act was “a joke, a prank,” but city officials have decided to press charges.
When police reviewed surveillance videos, they saw Ross walking her dog near the Bethlehem City Hall display around 2 am on December 4. She arrived at the hospital fifteen minutes later in a “dark Saturn four-door sedan” which she exited, carrying the statue. She then left the it in an area designated for the safe, legal and anonymous drop off of newborn babies.
According to police, Ross left a note with the ceramic baby that stated “"Child has a broken right foot which has been neglected. Parents Joseph and Mary Christ got a warning. Apparently sheep has a baby toe nibbling fetish. Child has been taken to Anderson St. Luke's Hospital for evaluation repair." She then signed the note as “concerned citizens.” The porcelain baby Jesus is valued by the court at $2,700.
When the police apprehended her at her home, she immediately confessed. According to court documents she told the responding police officer, “I did it. I took the statue. It was a joke, a prank. I took it to the hospital and dropped it off. I left a note,” before they stopped her and advised her of her rights.
Ross was sent to Northampton County Prison in lieu of $30,000 bail. If approved by Pre-Trial Services, Ross will be allowed to post ten percent of her bail to be released, but she must first undergo a mental health evaluation and agree to follow the recommendations. The judge also states that, if she is released, she is not allowed to have contact with any Bethlehem city employee or enter Bethlehem City Hall property.
Bethlehem Police Chief Mark Deluzio says that the Christ figurine has been returned to the display. Before returning it, Deluzio fixed the statue's broken foot with glue, paint, and epoxy. He told reporters, “It was something that had to get done, and it had to get done in a hurry, because we are the Christmas City,”
Ross is charged with theft and institutional vandalism. According to the Anti-Defamation League, in 2012, 42 states (including the state of Washington) and the District of Columbia have institutional vandalism laws, “which are designed to specifically punish bias-motivated defacement, desecration, or destruction of houses of worship, religious schools and institutions, and cemeteries.”
Sometimes practical jokes can be taken very seriously by law enforcement agencies, and it is important never to incriminate yourself by voluntarily disclosing information to police officers without consulting an experienced attorney. If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges, call the Law Office of Steve Karimi today for a free case consultation at (206) 621-8777 or contact us online.