Sunday, January 5, 2003

2 face charges in Nativity case

Woman says their intent was a practical joke

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MOUNT HEALTHY - The Christ child figurine stolen from a 54-year-old Nativity set shortly after Christmas was returned Saturday to funeral home director Paul R. Young Sr.

[photo] Paul R. Young Sr. is happy that the Christ child from his Nativity Scene was found after being stolen.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
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Although the feet were damaged, Mr. Young was "greatly relieved" to see the small figurine that holds a special place in his heart. He studied at Madame Tussaud's wax museum in London, and the small figurine was the first made for the Nativity set that attracts hundreds each holiday season.

"I didn't think we'd get it back. I thought they'd destroy it " to avoid suspicion, said Mr. Young of the two women - Lavinia Williams, 22, of Northside, and Samantha Miller, 22, of Walnut Hills - who were arrested earlier in the day for the Dec. 28 theft.

"I don't know what they were thinking."

Ms. Williams and Ms. Miller have been cited and released on misdemeanor charges of theft, criminal trespassing and criminal damage. If convicted, they could face a combination of jail time, fines and community service.

Police say they stole the figurine and a $100 security system from the Nativity set outside Mr. Young's funeral home, 7345 Hamilton Ave. The set includes live donkeys and sheep, as well as several other figurines that Mr. Young made of wax, glass eyes and real hair.

The women told police that two young men aided them. The two said they tried to reach Mr. Young to apologize, according to his staff, and gave investigators the men's first names. Police are trying to identify the men, who are thought to be Cincinnati residents.

[photo] Christ child that had been stolen was returned to its spot with a special thanks to Mount Healthy police.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
| ZOOM |
Ms. Williams told investigators that all they wanted to do was commit a practical joke. Sgt. Jeff Armontrout said Ms. Williams told him they were going to keep the figurine a short time, then box it up and send it back. It was recovered at her apartment.

An anonymous tip on New Year's Eve led police to Ms. Williams and Ms. Miller.

Mr. Young wants to hire someone to monitor his Nativity set next year. He'll need time to repair the figurines. But it's better than spending more than 200 hours to build a new Christ child figurine.

"I don't want to go through this again," he said.

Neither do Mount Healthy residents who visit the Nativity set every Christmas.

The Sams family was driving by the funeral home Saturday when they noticed Mr. Young and a crowd of people by the Nativity set.

Pam Sams, 37, of Mount Healthy, has stopped to see the Christ child since she was a young girl.

"We were hoping that was why they were here," she said upon seeing the small figurine. "It was very disturbing to the whole family."


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