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Michael Patzelt charged with vandalizing Jesus crucifixion statue at Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross

Michael Patzelt charged with vandalizing Jesus crucifixion statue in Boston
Michael Patzelt charged with vandalizing Jesus crucifixion statue in Boston 02:21

BOSTON - It is disturbing video captured by witnesses of a man who allegedly broke the arms of the crucifix outside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston's South End neighborhood. He's then seen swinging from it over and over again.

"I'm saddened about hearing the destruction this morning so I came over to see what the extent of it was," said Paul Deeley, whose family donated funds to refurbish the crucifix and have it placed outside the church two years ago.

Michael Patzelt, 37, of Attleboro is now charged with malicious destruction of property, assault and battery, and injury to a church/synagogue over $5,000, charges that alarmed the judge at his arraignment. "Counsel is this an issue of a depraved heart or a very sick mind," said Judge Paul Treseler.

Cell phone video showed a person dressed all in green and wearing a backpack trying to pull down the statue of the crucifixion outside the cathedral, October 24, 2023. CBS Boston

Patzelt has a lengthy record both in Massachusetts and Florida of vandalism and assaults. He's also charged with attacking a woman who was crossing the street outside the Cathedral with her son, and following another frightened woman.

"He decided to come toward me," said Tashana Watson. "I pushed him four times to get him away and he grabbed my hair and hat and threw it. He tried to have a conversation to the effect 'just shoot me'. I don't know if he said it to me or my child."

She was able to get away, learning only later of the damage to the crucifix where crews spent hours restoring the 150-year-old sacred structure and reassembling what was torn apart.

Boston crucifix vandalized
The crucifix outside Cathedral of the Holy Cross was repaired after a man vandalized it CBS Boston

"It's sad, it's an historic landmark. I'm a parishioner, my grandmother went here. The attack makes you feel anything can be open for attack," said Watson.

Minutes before police arrived, witnesses ran to try to stop Patzelt and wrestle him to the ground including Samuel Copans who called it a violent struggle. "He was just swearing saying he could do what he wanted to do," Copans said. "After the priest came out, he said pretty vulgar things to the priest."

The defense says Patzelt is homeless and unemployed after his grandmother recently passed away. He's now being held on $5,000 cash bail, which is ten times more than prosecutors had requested.

Michael Patzelt in Boston Municipal Court, October 25, 2023 CBS Boston

"He is remorseful about what occurred and the fact he has found himself in this position," said defense attorney Joana Stathi.

It's a devastating sight to many in the neighborhood. "This is a church and people should be respectful, it's very sad," said Steve Barbour. 

Patzelt is due back in court November 30.

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