Friday, February 18, 2011

The Mojave Cross theft. My theory on how it happened. Part 2 of 2.

This will flow more smoothly if you read part#1 first.

After passing the “driveway” I made my way out to the road, where I stopped and turned around looking for a photographic opportunity. Standing there,
a thought hit me, I think I know how they stole the cross.

I pulled out my Canon digicam and set it on video mode and filmed this first
short clip as I walked toward the backside of Sunrise Rock and back to
the “driveway.”.

Walking toward the back of Sunrise Rock.

Here is the next video where I spell out the how and where the events
occurred, as it seemed to me at that moment there at Sunrise Rock.

How’s that for a natural staircase?

What would one need to remove this object from atop a rock formation,
a place where this isn’t much room, and where there are no electrical outlets
for miles? I will get to that in a moment but first let’s talk about what was

Here is what the cross looked like at that time. This is a video still from KNBC4
Los Angeles news footage. The cross footage is mine, the one that I mentioned that I burned to cd in my post yesterday and that I gave to the news crew. Their news report was online for only a day or so, I never actually was able to download it, I had a friend who has steady hands film the image from his big screen with my digicam, I will put that video up at the end of this post after I write this, I don’t want to get distracted as I write down my thoughts now.

The cross was covered by plywood at the time, this was done by the park service.
ScreenHunter_04 Feb. 17 20.45

Keep in mind that the Mojave Cross was 8 feet tall, constructed of hollow iron pipe and filled with concrete.

In the 2nd video above, I talked about men going around and climbing up
from the front side, here the KNBC4 video shows me about to climb up.
ScreenHunter_03 Feb. 17 20.44
And up at the top, photographing the damage.
ScreenHunter_01 Feb. 17 20.43

I believe it is true when they say the camera adds a few pounds to your frame Winking smile

Some of you are probably wondering how they cut the cross down. I thought
it may have been done with a sawzall, which is what I mentioned to the media at the time. The other day I brought it up with a friend and my brother, both of
whom have forgotten more about tools than I ever will know, and after looking
at my photo of the cut off bolts and hearing my description, they both said this tool may,and most likely was used by the thieves, battery powered, about 100$ at any hardware store and would take about 30 seconds tops per bolt to cut through them. May I introduce the thief’s best friend, the cordless angle grinder:

This particular model spins at 10,000 rpm’s, is about 12.3 inches long, and
weighs only 5 pounds, and would be easy to handle in the hands of a
competent operator. With the right cutting wheel, those bolts and nuts didn’t
stand a chance.

If I were to attempt a crime such as this, I would take the cordless angle grinder, a good light source, nylon rope, some twine, a sharp knife, some
sort of padding such as a cut up blanket to wrap the upright exposed pipe
of the cross with, maybe an extra cutting wheel, and a small pry bar.
These items would be carried up in a hiker’s daypack. That’s all I would need,
plus 2 extra helpers would climb up with me also.

Remember, the photo of the 2 Riverside Press Enterprise news folks atop
Sunrise Rock taken by me that I posted in pt#1 yesterday and how I said that there was room for 3 men up there? My theory is that one man would do the cutting while another man would hold onto the cross, and the third would be the one handing over the various tools needed, he would be standing close to them but not on that part of the rock, due to limited space.

My opinion is that before they started cutting, the cross pipe was wrapped with a blanket or similar, tied up with twine to hold it in place, and the rope was wrapped around and below the plywood box, or if they removed it for some reason, the blanket was wrapped all around the pipes and the rope wrapped around the horizontal arm of the cross. This would help cut down the noise of
iron pipe clanging on the rocks and also eliminate leaving evidence or scrape
marks. And if the letter claiming responsibility was legitimate, it would fit in
with the claim of treating the cross with reverence and care.

Cutting this iron pipe would be extremely loud, sound would carry far and wide
in the desert night, but with no one around to hear--- and if, as we think, the
bolts were cut quick, it wouldn’t matter much. If someone did hear and called
911 to report it, it would take a long time for law enforcement to drive the long
miles to get there plus, there is no cell coverage there, from my recollection.

So the cross is lassoed, the bolts get cut, but after looking at my photo of 2010
of the base area, I believe by the appearance of one bent bolt, that the thieves
had to really pry up on it or push on it to get it off the base. At that point I believe they lowered it over the side and down the rock face to at least 2 and
more likely 3 or 4 men down on the rocks below as I showed in the video pt#2.

Once the cross was off the top, I believe the men up there policed the scene
removing any traces and loaded all into the pack and descended carefully
down the front side, the only way that I feel the cross site can be reached safely, especially at night.

I say this because as previously mentioned by me, I have been up there several times, once when the cross was covered with the plywood, as well.

Down below, the quickest way off with the cross would be back down the way
the men below came, but with this heavy load, most likely they walked it out straight back on the gently sloping rock ledge till they reached the point where I pointed out in the video that the soft ground was only about 4-5 feet below.

As I pointed out in the video, the rock face has absolutely no signs of scraping
nor does any white paint show on the rock surface. That I can vouch for, from my visit a couple of days ago and from being there the day after the cross was stolen and my examination then. This is in line with the claims in the letter also.

I feel my virtual re-enactment here is as plausible as any other theory that may
have been put forward so far.

Now here is what is known so far about this crime.

National Park Service employees told me when I saw them after my visit immediately upon hearing of the disappearance, that a group of campers
had been staying that weekend near Sunrise Rock, but were gone when
morning came and the cross was no longer in place. Speculation was that
they might have been involved. As far as I know they have never been seen
nor heard of again.

I know what some of you are thinking, no, there is no registration required to
camp out by Sunrise Rock. The Mojave National Preserve allows camping in
areas used historically for that purpose, no signing in required.

I mentioned in that video, that I don’t want to blame the campers. It is quite
possible that they left before the thieves struck, but I am starting to come around to the view, that that possibility is getting more and more remote.

The Christian Science Monitor reported right after the theft that it appeared
to have been carefully planned. My conclusion now is that is the understatement of the year.

The reward for information is now around $125,000 and no one has come forward. There are people that would sell their own mother for less than that.
The Justice department and other law enforcement have come up with zilch after these long 9 months since the cross theft. What does it tell us that
no clues of any consequence were found at the crime scene?

What does it tell us when someone claims responsibility in a letter delivered
to a news outlet, and no useable clues are obtained from it?

Here’s what it tells me.

These were either professionals, a theft crew, crew meant in the sense that
each person knows his job and does it well, and that all can and have kept
their ears open and their mouths shut
, and were hired, or they were some sort of insular group, with a set of beliefs that motivates them to care only about each other and their cause they are fighting for, and to broadcast publicly their motivation for committing an act, that they do not believe is a crime?

This was not a crime committed by amateurs, no college kids stealing the
other team’s mascot, or going on a panty raid at the sorority dorm, this was
a major extending the middle finger at the legal establishment as well as the
veterans and those with religious beliefs, a sign of such disrespect, to our
nation’s history, an unforgiveable insult in my opinion. No, these guys were
good at what they did, in the same manner that the "Baader-Meinhof Gang"
was good at terrorism.
If what I am saying seems extreme, ask yourself this question. How often
have you heard of “the perfect crime” being committed? Not very often, is my
guess. And in Germany for over 20 years, they couldn’t catch those guys who
committed far worse acts than this.

My take on the politics of this is that the United States Supreme Court made
a ruling and then this brazen theft occurred. That is a major affront to the
legal establishment, and as the old saying goes, the excrement flows downhill.
You can take this to the bank. When the Justice Department and the FBI get
involved, the state and local authorities can take a hint, and they hit the ground
running also. I bet every stone and rock that could be turned over, has been.
Every snitch has been leaned on, computer data banks nation and world wide have probably been searched, and exactly nada has turned up.

If big money can’t pry out out a crime tip, if the full weight of law enforcement
can’t turn up any clues, then we must be either dealing with zealots or professionals. I really can’t think of any other options. This crime was well planned, executed with precision and with consummate skill, but I am confident our law enforcement agencies will do their best to solve it.

However, that rough rock surface will never yield a fingerprint. Tire tracks would be easily swept away or blown away by the desert breeze. You can buy cordless angle grinders almost anywhere, even off a street vendor for cash.The cross itself could be thrown on the back of a truck and covered with the blanket and delivered to a storage unit with the rent paid years in advance with cash, or could be stashed away in a crook’s garage for all we know.

It seems to me that all we can do is wait. Who knows maybe one day, they
might have a change of heart and the cross might show up, maybe even placed back atop that lonely rock outcropping near Cima. Perhaps a member of the group might even have a change of heart, or get religion, and take it upon himself to either return the cross or drop a dime on the location to law enforcement. Out of the blue, something may break and the case may be solved. In the meantime, the legal battle will go on in the courts.

I filmed a little video when I visited the Cross in March 2010 before the theft.
I pointed out that there was a lot of room up there and that a scimitar or
Star of David could fit up there, and if there were WW1 veterans of those faiths who died, then add them, there is room. I understand people believe in the separation of church and state, but this cross was put up at least 50 years before this became a federal park, it should be grandfathered in, a position
that I believe the courts will ultimately end up agreeing with.

There are over a million acres in the Mojave National Preserve. There are miles
and miles of roads, and an unlimited number of rock outcroppings to look at.
Can’t we let this small area of the preserve be, restore this symbol of honor
given to the memory of those who never came back home, and just go on living our lives and let the cross stand atop Sunrise Rock in peace, as it did for
about 80 years?

No matter whose side triumphs in the legal battle, can we all live with the result? Can we pledge to honor the courts’ decision and let it rest once the
final ruling comes down?

As promised here is the video from KNBC4LA which is no longer available
on their website. Since I provided them with video, I hope they will forgive this
republishing of their work which is not available now for public viewing, and was thrown away automatically after a certain short period per an employee there that I talked to on the phone, when I asked for an original copy a couple days after this aired.

Discussing the cross theft with members of the tv news media.

I would also like to leave you guys with another photo or two from Sunrise Rock.
021511mojavedesertcross 026

021511mojavedesertcross 021

It is likely the thieves backed right up close to here, on the backside of the rock formation, and  loaded
up the Mojave Cross in the middle of the night, so far not to be seen again.

Let me say thank you to the folks in law enforcement who have been and
still are working on solving this case. We salute you for making all the efforts
you have on behalf of the memories of the our long gone but not forgotten
World War One veterans, men who sacrificed all when their country called them to service all those years ago.

I also send out special thanks to Henry and Wanda Sandoz, the caretakers
of the cross for years, for doing such a wonderful job keeping the memories
alive with their devotion to maintaining this symbol of selfless sacrifice for
others. We salute you.

Once again my friends we reach that time when we must bid each other good
evening and head home from out here on the backporch. For those of you
so inclined, I ask that you say a prayer for the souls of the dead who were once, and one day soon, will be honored again by that old rugged iron cross, in the special place called Sunrise Rock, a sight they hopefully will be able to view again one day together with those loved ones left behind when duty called, in a future world where there will be no more wars or rumors of war.