‘Desecration’ repair begins at Mount Carmel

Suspect found homeless at rescue mission

Angel Ortiz Jr. touches the head of Joseph in a Holy Family statue to show that it was destroyed early Friday at Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Youngstown. Ortiz works for A.O Construction of Youngstown, which removed the statues and is working with the church to replace them. Staff photo / Ed Runyan

YOUNGSTOWN — The Rev. Monsignor Michael Cariglio of the Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church had 14 destroyed statues removed from outside the church so that parishioners coming to Mass this weekend didn’t have to “see the desecration,” he said.

A.O. Construction, which repairs statues and handles masonry work at Mount Carmel and many other area churches, picked up the statues and took them to its Wilson Avenue shop.

Angel Ortiz Sr., owner of A.O Construction, said Monday the 14 fiberglass statues cannot be repaired because of the kind of damage done to them. It is undetermined whether two granite statues can be repaired, he said.

He did not believe it would be difficult to find nearly exact replicas for the destroyed statues, he said.

The church’s surveillance video system captured a young man destroying the statues.

The videos helped police identify Caleb Vancampen, 20, on Friday after officers recalled writing misdemeanor theft citations to Vancampen early Thursday.

Those citations were for allegedly stealing items out of cars parked along East Commerce Avenue, not far from Mount Carmel. Youngstown police officers went to the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley on Friday after identifying Vancampen as a suspect in the vandalism, and Vancampen was there.

An officer reminded Vancampen of his arraignment that morning in Youngstown Municipal Court on the theft charges and drove him to the court. After his court hearing on the theft charges, police took him to the Youngstown Police Detective Bureau and Vancampen confessed to the statue vandalism, police said.

On Monday, Magistrate Anthony Sertick Jr. of Youngstown Municipal Court arraigned Vancampen on a felony vandalism charge related to the statues. He set Vancampen’s bond at $10,000. No plea was required.

He was arraigned by videoconference from the Mahoning County jail, where he has been since his arrest Friday.

During the hearing, the magistrate learned that Vancampen had an address in East Palestine, but he is homeless. Vancampen’s case will be set for a preliminary hearing, and Sertick set Vancampen’s bond at $10,000.

Jeff Moliterno, Youngstown assistant law director, told Sertick that Vancampen has no previous criminal record but has two pending theft charges from Thursday.

“The destruction of property involved here, the monetary value alone, is very high. But there is also significant personal or religious value to many of these monuments,” he said. “Based on all that … I think a $15,000 cash assurety bond is appropriate.”

The magistrate questioned Vancampen at one point on whether he owns any real estate or a car or has a bank account. Vancampen appeared to answer no to all three. Before answering those questions, Sertrick placed Vancampen under oath, having him raise his right hand and swear to tell the truth.

The magistrate said he understands the value “both monetarily and otherwise” of the destroyed items, and he has weighed Vancampen’s lack of a previous record against the fact that Vancampen is homeless. If Vancampen does make bond, he must have no contact with Mount Carmel Church.

Vancampen did answer the questions he was asked but spoke quietly and kept his head down while waiting for the hearing to begin.



Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)