June 26, 2023
Stafford police identified the man as Thomas Blintz, 52, of Chandlersville, Ohio. Investigators said Blintz has not been taken into custody yet. Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to contact Stafford police at (609) 597-1000 ext. 8461.
Original story below
A statue of the mythical Jersey Devil was stolen from outside of a restaurant in Stafford Township on Friday afternoon, prompting a police investigation and a promise from the artist to replace the creature's likeness.
Lucille's Luncheonette, a popular restaurant on Route 539 in Ocean County, just outside Barnegat, said on Facebook that the wooden statue was stolen Friday night. Around 10:20 p.m., surveillance video showed what appeared to be an SUV towing a trailer with a Jeep on it. A driver got out of the vehicle and removed the statue, breaking one of its wings during the getaway.
"We have notified Stafford (police) and are reviewing security footage ... but if anyone has any info on our missing pal... please reach out," the owners wrote on Saturday. "We would like him returned. He has great sentimental value not just for us but our guests."
*** Update.. Security Video is now posted on our page... Please Share.. Someone has to recognize the vehicles...Posted by Lucilles Luncheonette - Country Cooking on Saturday, June 24, 2023
Lucille's has been in Stafford since 1975 and adopted a Jersey Devil theme many years ago to make the stop more appealing. The statue outside the restaurant was often used by kids for photos.
As legend has it, the Jersey Devil hails from the Pine Barrens and emerged in 1735. A dastardly and cruel woman named Mother Leeds cursed her 13th child when it was born and turned the baby into a winged demon with hooves, horns and a goat-like head. The Jersey Devil is known for its blood-curdling scream, and the myth goes that the beast killed Mother Leeds shortly after its transformation.
The creature has been the subject of many alleged sightings over the centuries — including one creepy video shot in Pennsylvania in November 2015 — but there's no record of its existence beyond the realm of imagination.
Lucille's received an outpouring of support when it shared the news that the statue had been stolen. The original Facebook post was shared more than 3,800 times and commenters offered to help pay for a replacement. The owners of the restaurant declined help.
"We have had a ton of offers to help with costs of a new statue," the owners wrote. "While we appreciate your thoughts, and outright love, we respectfully decline to accept donations. The only persons that should pay are those responsible for the theft. Not the amazing people who have given us nothing but help and support."
The restaurant has since uploaded grainy security footage of the theft and a photo of the wanted vehicles on Facebook. The owners said they are confident that police will be able to track down the thief.
Fortunately for Lucille's, the creator of the Jersey Devil statue, Joe Wenal of Rocky Mountain Carvers in Maine, has offered to work on a commissioned replacement, the restaurant said.
Time will tell whether police can identify the statue thief, but the act alone may have released some dark energy that could prove to be punishment enough.