GPS baby Jesus stolen again

GPS baby Jesus stolen again

Found across the street

WELLINGTON — In this village, Jesus has returned with the help of modern-day technology.

Last year, the Baby Jesus doll disappeared from the Nativity scene in front of the Wellington Community Center, twice, never to be seen again.

This year, the new blond, blue-eyed statue was outfitted with a GPS tracking device that monitored its every movement.

The evening after Jesus' birth, the baby moved.

At 6:45 a.m. Thursday, a village employee noticed that the statue was missing. Building maintenance supervisor Gus Arnold logged on to the monitoring system and saw that it was taken from the manger at 10 p.m. Wednesday.

Arnold homed in on Jesus' location and called the sheriff's office to get it back.

Jesus was in a home on Suellen Circle, in a neighborhood across the street from the Nativity scene.

Deputies knocked on the door Thursday morning. When a woman answered, they saw the statue face-down on the living room floor.

The woman's son directed the deputies to the alleged culprit.

The simple spur-of-the-moment prank landed an 18-year-old suburban Lake Worth woman in jail, charged with a felony. Danielle Santino told deputies she took the statue and dropped it at a friend's house, then left.

She provided a taped confession in which she admitted, "I stole Jesus."

Santino's friend, 18-year-old Fernando Silva, was initially arrested but cooperated with deputies and was released. Santino turned herself in and was booked into Palm Beach County Jail with bail set at $3,500. She is charged with a felony for taking an item valued at $800, plus $400 for the GPS system.

Lt. Jay Hart said Santino, who had no previous problems with the law, was upset and crying at the station.

A woman at Santino's address said only "no comment" Thursday night.

Wellington's director of community services, Paul Schofield, said he didn't realize the teen would face such serious charges. He said the village was working with investigators.

"The property has been recovered and I'm hoping it was nothing more than a youthful prank and I suspect the village will act accordingly," Schofield said.

He said several of the satellite-based trackers were purchased for the $40,000 generators used during hurricanes, but a staff member decided to put one in the statue when the scene went up Dec. 3.

"It turned out to not be a bad idea," Schofield said. "There's a whole rash of kidnapped baby Jesuses."

City employees in Bal Harbour, in northern Miami-Dade County, had the same idea. But they didn't stop with the baby statue. Mary and Joseph also are equipped with tracking devices.

After Santino was arrested, "Baby Jesus was returned back to the village," Hart said.