HAVERHILL, Mass. — Surveillance video from a business in the village of Bradford, Massachusetts, showed a woman carrying a pig's head under her arm and walking south toward Sacred Hearts Church early Christmas morning, police said.
Authorities believe that woman is Amarillis Cermeno, 54, who is charged with stealing a Baby Jesus statue from the Nativity scene in front of Sacred Hearts Church and replacing it with the severed head of a pig. She appeared in Haverhill District Court on Friday for her arraignment on various charges in connection with the incident.
Judge Stephen Abany found Cermeno incompetent to stand trial at this time, based on a mental health evaluation he ordered during previous hearing on charges she allegedly desecrated another church -- by writing "666" on the church building -- five days after the incident at Sacred Hearts.
Abany imposed $5,000 cash bail and returned Cermeno to the custody of the Department of Mental Health. She will be evaluated again the coming weeks.
Police said that during their investigation, they reviewed surveillance video provided by a donut shop showing a woman who appeared to be Cermeno carrying what appeared to be a pig's head under her arm and smoking a cigarette, while walking south toward Sacred Hearts Church just before 2 a.m. on Christmas morning. Police said the video shows Cermeno about a half hour later walking in the other direction.
The Rev. John Delaney, pastor of Sacred Hearts Parish, previously told police that while he was preparing for the 7:30 a.m. Mass on Christmas Day when an associate pastor told him that he discovered the pig's head.
Delaney said the last time the Nativity scene appeared to be intact was at 1:30 a.m., shortly after the midnight Mass.
Cermeno is charged with defacing another church, Iglesia Biblica Bautista on Portland Street, by using a marker to write "666," known as the mark of Satan, multiple times on the exterior of the church. She was arrested Dec. 30 after a neighbor of the church called police to say he saw her commit the crime.
Police said Cermeno tried to strike a detective several times with a crucifix that had been stolen from the Sacred Hearts Nativity scene. She faces charges of assault with a dangerous weapon (a metal crucifix), malicious destruction of property over $250, disorderly conduct, destruction to a place of worship and resisting arrest.
According to police report on file in Haverhill District Court, Cermeno told detectives that because she is homeless, she spends a lot of time "dumpster diving" and that she typically stays in a local park and walks throughout the city during the day.
Police said Cermeno has mental health issues, has undergone multiple hospitalizations and requires medication for mental health stabilization.
LaBella writes for The Eagle Tribune in North Andover, Massachusetts.
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