Park display damaged

Less than a week ago, Murray-Calloway County Parks and Recreation officials were celebrating the return of this display that is sponsored by Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 23 after it was stolen from its place in the Festival of Lights/Christmas in the Park show at Central Park. This is how it appeared Tuesday morning after it was stolen Sunday night, then returned Monday night; it is bent with some lights broken, meaning it is out of commission for this year's show.

MURRAY — Less than a week after one or the displays for a poplar Christmas lights show that brings thousands of visitors each year to Murray was returned after being stolen, that same display was discovered missing again Sunday night. 

On the previous occasion, it was returned unharmed. This time was different. 

Monday night, a ranger in Central Park discovered the remains of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 23 police car display, forcibly folded in half with several of its lights broken about 24 hours after it had been taken from its place in the annual Murray Bank Festival of Lights/Christmas in the Park show. Murray Police Department Public Information Officer Sgt. Brant Shutt said Tuesday that MPD is investigating but no other information on the case was available.

“It’s just a shame,” said Murray-Calloway County Park Board Chairman Jason Lovett. “You know, last week’s deal was kind of a prank, not that that’s a little thing. This is worse. This is destruction. It’s just hateful.”

Last week, Shutt said officers were able to quickly solve the first case involving the police car display after its alleged captors asked to return it after allegedly taking it to Huntingdon, Tennessee, more than an hour south of Murray, after realizing they could not hide it in Murray. Family members convinced them to contact police to arrange the return. 

It was returned with barely a scratch. Tuesday, Murray-Calloway County Parks and Recreation Maintenance Director Steve Wilhelm said the damage to the 10-foot-long display is going to prove too much to overcome for this year’s event that opens for the 2019 season on Saturday. 

“They did a good job of crushing it,” said Wilhelm, who is in his seventh year as the designer of the Festival. “We’ve had a few stolen but never had one smashed like this. 

“The display will eventually go back to the place we send our displays in Florida. So it’s going to go to the ‘display doctor,’  and I’ve already sent pictures to Florida to show them what it looks like. It’s bent pretty good, but straightening out things like this?That’s what they do for a living, so they’ll cut out the bad parts, then restring it with good lights and send it back. 

“It will live again, but it’s done for this season.”

City of Murray Police Chief Jeff Liles said this case will be investigated and hopes are it will have a similar result to last week, with those responsible either coming forward on their own or being found through investigation.

“I’m never happy whenever somebody takes property that doesn’t belong to them, but you’re talking about something that is for the whole community and we have kids that look at it and celebrate their holiday season with them,” Liles said. “Somebody is just trying to take the joy away from everybody. 

“We’ll find them. This community will come together and when you put it out there, people start talking. It will all come to light.”

“It’s sad with it being the police car, and happening twice. It seems targeted, to me, which makes it all that much worse,” Lovett said. “It’s such a nice thing for the community too and you have different kids who look for different things they enjoy out there and this is one of them.

“When something is missing, you’ll hear about it.”

Anyone with information on this case is asked to contact MPD at 270-753-1621 or the Calloway County Sheriff’s Office at 270-753-5171. 

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