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Sheriff: Historic bell stolen from MN church was cut up, sold as scrap

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A 108-year-old bell that survived a destructive fire was stolen from outside a Minnesota church, then cut up and sold as scrap, according to authorities.

The Le Sueur County Sheriff's Office said in a news release two adult male suspects were arrested and questioned in connection with the theft of the bell, which had been outside the front entrance of St. Paul's Lutheran Church German Lake in Le Center.

Sheriff Dave Tietz told BringMeTheNews the bell – 2 feet wide at its base, and 150-200 pounds – was reported missing on Jan. 19, but it could have been taken during the previous couple of days as well.

Authorities have since recovered parts of the bell – three pieces, one of them large, that Tietz said were positively identified as being from the bell.

"Very unfortunate we couldn't have gotten it back to them the way it was," Tietz said. "But nothing we can do about that now. It's a shame."

The sheriff's office had put out notice of a $500 reward for information related to the theft.

With information investigators sent out statewide and nationwide, Tietz said, they got a tip of the bell possibly being at a scrapyard. Tietz, citing the ongoing investigation, said he couldn't divulge whether the scrapyard was located in Minnesota.

That led to the two suspects – a 27-year-old from St. Peter and a 28-year-old from Kasota.

Both were arrested then later released, but the case was sent to the county attorney's office for possible charges.

History of the bell

The bell was originally bought in 1907 by members of the church. Made of a solid brass metal, it hung in the church bell tower until 1972 – the church was struck by lightning, which started a fire that destroyed the church, according to the news release.

The bell, however, was pulled from the debris and placed in landscaping at the front entrance, where it sat until last week.

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