Police search for man who stole religious icon from Manhattan church

Sandra Bookman Image
Monday, May 16, 2016
Police search for man who stole religious icon from Manhattan church
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Sandra Bookman has more from Washington Heights.

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, Manhattan (WABC) -- Police are searching for the man who stole a religious icon from a Manhattan church.

An original painting of the church's patron saint, St. Spyridon, was stolen from inside St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church in Washington Heights, where it was hanging in a front entryway.

The painting is valued at $5,000, and parishioners call it the most significant theft in parish history.

It happened on Mother's Day Sunday, and a security camera was rolling when a man walking with a cane entered the church lobby, headed straight to a small alter, hid something under his coat and then left with it.

"It's plain as day," Fr. Evagoras Constantinides said. "Everything that we have here, this is all hand done. This is hand-painted iconography, and that's what makes it so rare."

The stolen icon features a 24-carat gold leaf background at a structure that has been a welcome part of the community for well over half a century. The theft has rattled some neighbors.

"I just don't understand it," resident Vivian Jackson said. "I hope they catch the guy and they retrieve their picture back."

What's even more disturbing is that while the priest says while he doesn't know the alleged thief's name, he does recognize him.

The man is described as approximately 65 years old, 5-foot-3 and 150 pounds.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).