The baby Jesus on display as part of a Pearl River Nativity scene has been vandalized.
Passersbys are stopping "in horror" at the sight of a desecrated baby Jesus figure that someone spray-painted with dark brown paint overnight, Rita Reers, part of the Pearl River creche committee, told Newsday.
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Dozens turned out Sunday night for the annual creche procession at South Main Street and Central Avenue, a ceremony in which a child who recently lost a loved one places a figure representing the baby Jesus in a crib to be displayed in a Nativity for about 10 days following Christmas.
This season, children also laid 20 tiny angel figures in the Nativity to honor the 20 children killed in the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
It is the third time in four years that the Pearl River creche Jesus figure has been vandalized. The figure was stolen from its crib in 2009 and again last year, prompting the committee to bolt the figure to the crib this season. Reers said drunken revelers were responsible for removing the figure from the crib in years past but that the spray-painted face discovered Monday morning was a deliberate and "violent act."
Reers said she had no idea why someone would paint the face.
"It had to be someone who was very angry," Reers said. "It was so beautiful yesterday. To wake up this morning to this horrible desecration is really saddening."
Reers said the committee has two baby Jesus figures -- one used during the procession and one bolted in the crib -- and are planning to replace the vandalized figure. However, removing it will be tricky because it deliberately was made hard to remove, Reers said. The committee is considering removing the Jesus figure every night and replacing it in the morning to curb further issues.
"It's disgusting," said Maryann Shortell of Pearl River while looking at the display Monday afternoon. "It stops you in your tracks and makes you want to cry, especially on the eve of Christmas."
A surveillance camera was installed at the scene this season, but it is unknown whether an image of the culprit was captured.
The committee is offering a $300 reward for information leading to the offenders.
Orangetown police are investigating.