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Woman Charged With Replacing Jesus Nativity Statue With Pig's Head In Haverhill

HAVERHILL (CBS) — A homeless woman is facing charges for allegedly stealing a baby Jesus statue from a Haverhill church nativity scene last month and replacing it with a severed pig's head.

Amerellis Cermeno, 54, is charged with destruction to a place of worship, police announced Wednesday.

She's now in the custody of the Department of Mental Health for an evaluation.

The statue was stolen from the Sacred Hearts Church on South Main Street on Christmas morning. A Haverhill woman replaced it with one of her own shortly after the incident.

Officials said Wednesday that this was not a hate crime and that Cermeno found the pig's head in a dumpster, possibly while looking for food. They said she has a "severe preoccupation with religion."

"I think it highlights the need for mental health help for homeless people that's what I think it highlights. There isn't any readily available help," said Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini.

Police added that they can't yet reveal the physical evidence they have against Cermeno

Amarellis Cermeno
Police say a witness took this photo of Amarellis Cermeno after the Dec. 30 incident. (Photo credit: Haverhill Police)

Cermeno was previously arrested on Dec. 30 and ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation after a bizarre series of events in Haverhill involving the manger.

She allegedly wrote "666" in black marker 15 different times on the outside of a church on Portland Street.

Cermeno was found a short time later at Main and Winter streets, carrying a large metal crucifix, which police said she swung at approaching officers.

Police said the crucifix came from the same nativity scene.

During Wednesday morning mass church members were relieved that the vandalism was not a hate crime.

"There could be other outcomes that could've occurred that could be a little more disturbing. To have this outcome, though sad, is the best possible outcome in a sense," Father John Delaney of Most Blessed Hearts Church.

Cermeno is charged with destruction to a place of worship under $5,000, malicious destruction of property over $250, and larceny over $250.

She is expected to be arraigned in Haverhill District Court on Friday.

Delaney spoke to his parishioners Wednesday morning after hearing the circumstances surrounding the vandalism.

"We care for those who are in need and support as best we can advocating for them of course praying for them in our houses of worship and doing what we can in the community to support them as best we can," Delaney said.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Kim Tunnicliffe reports

WBZ-TV's Chris McKinnon contributed to this report.


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