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Trail of Corn Dog Debris Helps Catch Thieves Who Stole Virgin Mary Statue

Father Aaron Huberfeld hoped his prayers would bring back the statue, but the discarded corn dog bits leading to the Kwik Trip helped, too.

by Jelisa Castrodale
May 14 2018, 5:57pm

Photo via Flickr user wwny

If you know what a gas station corn dog tastes like, it’s probably a safe assumption that you’re either an eight-year-old or the kind of person who has strong opinions about the State Fair. And, according to one Wisconsin Police Department, you’re probably one of the people who stole a 300-pound statue from the local Catholic church.

Early last Sunday, Father Aaron Huberfeld realized that a five-foot-tall statue of the Virgin Mary had been swiped from a small altar beside the St. Mary's Catholic Church in Wausau. “It seemed very astonishing to us,” he told WJFW. “Why anyone would take it?” As he walked toward the now-empty altar, Huberfeld found a corn dog and some corn dog wrappers on the ground, a pile of half-eaten clues that proved crucial to catching the thief.

Huberfeld believed that the corn dogs were from the Kwik Trip gas station across the street, and the investigating officers agreed. The Wausau Police Department reviewed the footage from the Kwik Trip’s security cameras and were able to identify three subjects who left the convenience store and walked toward the church. (Nice work, Brian Yonker, Miranda Lindner, and Katie Kelly! Meat on a stick might’ve tainted your Google results forever!)

According to WSAW, the officer who watched the tapes was on his way back to the police department when he noticed that two of the women he’d just ID-ed were at a house right across the street. (I’ll admit that I briefly wondered if only, like, 14 people live in Wausau, Wisconsin). He approached the women who confessed that yes, they’d stolen the statue. They told the officer that they were freaked out by the publicity that the theft had gotten, so they’d taken the Virgin Mary to a home in Pelican Lake, a town 60 miles away.

That night, the statue had her second road trip back to Wausau, and was returned to the church the next morning. “The thought in the back of my head right away was 'She'll be coming back by the end of the week,'” Huberfeld said. "We knew that those prayers would bring her back."

Well, prayers and corn dogs. Huberfeld said that he was not interested in pressing charges, provided that the three suspects would be willing to perform community service by helping out. “All of them have reached out to me and expressed their extreme sorrow for what they did and to make amends,” Huberfeld said.

They aren’t the only thieves to get busted because of a gas station snack. Last month, Michael Cole Kitley was caught because he dropped the wrapper for a 7-11 beef, bean, and cheese burrito while he broke into two cars in Fairfax, California. Kitley—who was on parole when he bought that telltale burrito—is facing a long list of charges after allegedly helping himself to a set of golf clubs and a customized shotgun with an estimated value of $30,000.

According to The Mercury News, the Fresno Police Department reviewed surveillance footage at the closest 7-11 and saw a man on camera buying the kind of burrito that matched the wrapper they’d found at the crime scene. Kitley was double-busted, because the stolen gun’s case had a GPS tracker inside it; when the officers detected its signal, they compared photos of the parolee at that address to the dude they saw on the 7-11 surveillance camera. Kitley, a 46-year-old charmer with a “SKINHEAD” tattoo, was arrested and held without bail due to his parole violations.

So what have we learned? If you’re going to commit a property crime, it’s best to do it at a place that seems super big on forgiveness, pack your own snacks, and, most importantly, don’t litter.