by David Hewett
A church in St. Louis, Missouri, that had been the victim of numerous thefts over the past two years got nailed again just before Christmas. Thieves took material intended for needy neighborhood families, cash and gift cards worth $1100, and food items from St. John’s Lutheran Church on the Wednesday before the holiday.
One man came back two nights later and broke windows in the process before trashing the church interior. He also made off with a 150-year-old Bible weighing over 15 pounds. The church usually kept the brass-bound Bible with heavily impressed dark leather gilt-highlighted covers, printed in Augsburg, Bavaria, in its vault, getting it out only for special occasions. Surveillance cameras recorded the thief at work.
On Sunday, two days later, the man offered the Bible to a local store, Hammond’s Antiques and Books, asking $30 for it. The offer was accepted.
Hammond’s, located at 1939 Cherokee Street, has been in business for 32 years. In 2009 it was chosen as the best used book store in St. Louis.
Owner Jovanka Hammond told M.A.D., “My brother was handling the store that day when the man came in with it. It’s quite a large Bible, and when the man demanded thirty dollars for it, my brother recognized that it was probably valuable, and figured he should buy it, because if he didn’t, someone else would, and if it was a stolen book, it might be lost forever. As soon as he had a chance, he went on the Internet and discovered it had been stolen from the church. It’s back where it should be now.”
It turned out that the seller, described as a scruffy-looking young white man, had visited several shops on St. Louis’s antiques row with the Bible in hand. Several merchants had called the police after he left their shops.
Police picked up 20-year-old Jacob Lenau the same day. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Lenau was charged on Thursday, December 27, 2012, with three counts of burglary, three counts of theft or stealing, and three counts of property damage. According to that report, Lenau confessed to two earlier break-ins at the church.
All in all, it wasn’t a totally disastrous week for St. John’s Lutheran Church. The church has its Bible back, and an anonymous donor has come forward with an offer to fund a security system for the church.
Originally published in the February 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest