Marking the latest example in a string of vandalizing incidents, the head and hands of Virgin Mary statue were severed outside of a church in Billerica, Massachusetts, according to police Wednesday. The case in Billerica, which is about 25 miles northwest of Boston, followed a number of similar incidents in nearby towns. 

The head and the hands of the statue outside of St. Mary's Church appeared to be lopped off, according to an image released by the local police. An officer responded to a report of vandalism Wednesday morning and spoke with a maintenance worker who said he was alerted to the damage by a parishioner, police said. It's believed the vandalism was carried out in the cover of the late night or early morning. 

“We are actively investigating this disturbing crime and will continue to do so until we find those responsible,” Billerica Police Chief Daniel Rosa said in a statement. “If you have seen anything suspicious around this church or any other religious institution, contact police immediately.”


In the statement, the Billerica Police Department acknowledged it is aware of similar incidents that have taken place at other Catholic churches nearby and that detectives were investigating to determine possible connections between the cases. 

Three statues were struck the day before the Billerica incident in neighboring Burlington, Massachusetts, less than six miles away. Two religious statues atop a hill had their heads and hands removed, as well as a third statue depicting the Virgin Mary.  

"This is a deeply disturbing crime committed against a religious institution in our community during a major holiday season," Burlington Police Chief Michael Kent said in a statement. "We will undertake a thorough investigation and use all assets at our disposal to find those responsible and hold them accountable."

Days before the Burlington incident, a Virgin Mary statue was spray-painted black ahead of Easter weekend in Norwood, Massachusetts, about 25 miles southwest of Boston.

Following the latest incident, local parishioners in Billerica expressed disbelief to NECN. "We don’t really know why someone would do something like this," parishioner Michael Hawes said. "Maybe it's a prank, maybe it's kids — who knows? I just hope they find the people who did it."