Five Monmouth College students were accused of stealing items from a Nativity scene displayed at the Public Square in Monmouth, Ill.
Those arrested and charged with theft included Cathryn Sargent, Korri Crawford, Brittany Smallberger, Emily Triebel, and Samantha Bundy, all of whom were Illinois residents. The women were discovered at a local gas station in the city shortly after the Monmouth Police Department officers began their search for the suspects.
The investigation started on Thursday when authorities had noticed that several of the Nativity scene lawn ornaments in the downtown area were missing, with a few items knocked over as well.
Upon further investigation, the officers learned that a pizza delivery man had seen a maroon SUV stop by the display, whereupon four females jumped out of the vehicle and took a number of objects including baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph and some stable animals before speeding off.
Eventually, officers located the women at Beck’s gas station, according to a police report. When questioned, the driver immediately confessed to the theft, stating, "We did it, can we give them back?" She also apologized saying she was sorry and admitted that the prank was stupid.
Warren County Assistant State’s Attorney Sherry Lawson-Weaver, the prosecutor who filed the charges, stated, “The vehicle did have the above-listed five females in it, but the Nativity figures were not there."
“The figures were found on the Monmouth College President’s front lawn, and the statues that were taken were of baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and some stable animals."
Lawson-Weaver stated that the five Nativity statues that were taken had been safely returned to their home on the Public Square “for all to view and enjoy.”
The attorney also made clear that the charges against the defendants were “merely accusations” and that the women were presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
When asked why the students took the figurines, Lawson-Weaver told The Christian Post she didn’t know the reason behind their actions. She also said that there were certain things she could not reveal at this time.
“I can say that from the investigation, the police officers learned that they may have been coming from a local bar.”
Because their theft is considered to be a Class A misdemeanor, if proven guilty, the women may receive a possible jail sentence of up to 364 days in the county jail, she further explained to CP.
For now, the women, several of them members of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, have been given notices to appear before the court.
The recent prank by the sorority sisters continues to add to the growing number of Nativity scene thefts occurring this Christmas season. Reports of stolen figurines have also been cited at churches in Pennsylvania, Texas, and at personal homes across the nation.
The large number of thefts has even led to the creation of a GPS tracking device for Nativity displays by BrickHouse Security called “Saving Jesus.”