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Stolen angel, others recovered in dumpster
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Three angel statues, all presumably stolen from graves, were recovered when a man spotted one of them that had sat atop a childs grave in the Gum Branch Baptist Church Cemetery in a county trash site near Gum Branch. Authorities are hoping to discover who is missing the other statues. - photo by Lewis Levine

A decorative angel that had been missing from a Gum Branch grave has been found.

Liberty County Sheriff’s Office Detective Capt. Doug Snider said a resident called detectives to report that he had found three angels, including the one that had been mounted to the grave of Elke Hester in the Gum Branch Baptist Church Cemetery.

The angel had been stolen between mid-November and early December, devastating Elke Hester’ mother, Cathy Lyons, and stepfather, Garden City police Chief David Lyons.

Detectives Snider and Dustin Rushing responded to a dump site on Dairy Road in Gum Branch where the angels were found.

According to Snider, the man stated that he had been putting items in the dumpster when he saw the angel, which recently had been the subject of news media attention, lying partially underneath a couch cushion. The man recognized the angel, which had one of its hands broken off.

He told the detectives he climbed into the dumpster to get the angel and discovered two other angels, also believed to have been stolen.

“We would appreciate the public’s assistance in identifying any potential suspects,” Snider said. “Maybe someone had seen suspicious activity around the dump or had previously seen the angels in someone’s residence. It is reasonable to believe the other two angels were stolen from grave sites, and I would like the public’s assistance in helping us return those angels to those graves.”

In a Dec. 6 interview with the Coastal Courier, David Lyons said the 2-foot Italian marble angel statue, which was holding a rose, had been perched atop the headstone of Elke Hester since 2004. His wife, Cathy, last saw the angel Nov. 13, when she decorated the grave with poinsettias and noticed that the headstone needed to be cleaned. The couple hired a maintenance worker, who discovered the angel was missing Dec. 1 when he arrived to clean the headstone.

In a thank-you letter to Liberty County Sheriff Steve Sikes, the Lyonses singled out Snider.

“A very special thank you goes to Captain Doug Snider and his team,” they wrote. “He was in constant communication with us and assured us that every possible lead would be followed.”

They concluded, “While we hope that the perpetrator(s) will be caught and prosecuted, just finding the angel is a blessing. Thank you for everything.”

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