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Sketch released of Long Beach church theft suspect

St. Anthony is known to Catholics as the patron saint of missing things. Now a 16-inch, 780-year-old relic at St. Anthony's Catholic Church is missing.

June 14, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The search is on for the person who stole a nearly 800-year-old relic from a Long Beach church on Monday.

St. Anthony is known to Catholics as the patron saint of missing things. Now a 16-inch, 780-year-old relic at St. Anthony's Catholic Church is missing.

"He's our patron saint and missing is hurtful," said parishioner Yvonne Christman. "It's sad."

At Tuesday morning's mass, prayers are directed at the now empty case where thousands viewed the relic for the first time in nine years this past weekend.

"The message was two-fold," said Father Jose Magana, the pastor at the church near 6th Street and Olive Avenue. "One, that our faith is in God. Second, that for us at this time not to be angry at the person or the people."

Police say the suspect looks like a heavyset, Hispanic woman in her mid thirties, about 5 feet 2 inches tall, who attended multiple masses Sunday.

"On a couple of occasions, they had to ask her to kind of step away from the cabinet because she was getting a little bit too close," said Lt. Paul Arcala of the Long Beach Police Department. "They were a little bit nervous about her behavior towards the cabinet."

"I hope whoever took it, that she doesn't really understand what she did," said parishioner Therese Thurman.

Parishioners have a couple of theories as to where the relic is. Some fear the suspect has it inside her home as a shrine. The biggest fear is that the gold and silver have been melted.

But they have faith this will all end well, thanks to the patron saint of missing things.

"It's a moment of trust right now, said Magana. "It may take a little while but it will come home."

If you have any information call Long Beach Police at 562-570-5590.