Statues stolen from Fatima shrine returned to church

Published 3:13 pm Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Found at Huntington pawn shop; Theft took place prior to Jan. 20

Three statues that were stolen from the Our Lady of Fatima Shrine last month have been located and returned to the Ironton Catholic Churches.

Daniel Hartwig, with the Knight of Columbus in Ironton, who has done restoration work on the shrine over the years, said on Wednesday that the statues were found together and the church took possession of them on Saturday.

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Hartwig said there was no damage to the works and that they were found intact.

He said the church could not comment on the specifics of the theft due to an ongoing investigation and was deferring to the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department, but more information would be released at a future date.

Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless said the statues were located at a pawn shop in Huntington, West Virginia. and that records of the sale have been investigated by his office.

“We hope to make an arrest soon,” he said of a suspect.

The statues were discovered missing on Jan. 20 by visitors to the shrine.

Hartwig said the plan is to reinstall the statues at the shrine in late April or early May. He said, in the meantime, the church will be looking into upgrading security for the site, including surveillance, improved lighting and motion detectors.

“And we are looking at ways to better secure the statues,” he said.

The three statues depict Portuguese children, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, who according to church tradition, saw the apparition of the Virgin Mary in Fatima in 1917.

Hartwig said the community came together in the effort to find the statues and that he knew of several people who had actively been searching for them.

“I wasn’t too optimistic and didn’t expect to find them,” he said. “I thought they might have been vandalized, but they have been returned, are in great shape and not damaged.”

The Fatima shrine is located on U.S. State Route 52, seven miles west of Ironton.