EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. – A northwest Arkansas man faces charges after allegedly stealing a fiberglass baby Jesus from a Nativity scene that was later marred with racial slurs, a swastika and a Hitler mustache.
Christopher Robin Bell, 19, of Green Forest is charged with misdemeanor theft after allegedly taking the figurine from Eureka Springs' Basin Park. While the creche often finds itself a target of practical jokes in the vacation hamlet, police say the joke was taken too far when someone scrawled racial epithets, satanic symbols and other obscene references on the figurine.
The figurine's eyes are blacked out and the face has an Adolf Hitler-style mustache drawn on it. Pieces of the statue also were broken off.
"It's rude and uncalled for," Assistant Police Chief Morris Pate told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Bell had been overheard bragging about the theft, Pate said. Bell was arrested Friday and the statue was recovered from an abandoned house near downtown. Pate said Bell told officers he did not damage the figurine and viewed the theft as a game.
Police gave baby Jesus back to the Eureka Springs chapter of Beta Sigma Phi sorority, which has sponsored the Nativity display since 1950. However, they returned it to police because of the extensive damage and graffiti.
The sorority raised money for a surveillance camera to watch the Nativity this year and chained the Jesus figurine in hopes of deterring thieves. The statue has been stolen three times in the past four years.
Whether more measures will be in place next year, or even if there is a next year for the Nativity, remains undecided, said Shirley Bird, extension officer for the sorority.
Bird said the group is leaving the matter to police and focusing on Christmas.
"We just don't know what we're going to do," she said. "We've got a whole year to decide what we're going to do."