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Authorities: Man suspected in cemetery statue thefts drove toward deputy’s car
Santiago Villalobos
Santiago Villalobos

A Gainesville man accused of taking a handful of bronze animal statues from Memorial Park Cemetery allegedly drove at a deputy, forcing the officer to swerve away to not get hit, according to authorities.

Santiago Morales Villalobos, 24, was charged with aggravated assault on a peace officer and theft by taking, among other charges.

The case started around Aug. 24, when the cemetery reported some of its bronze statues — including a pair of donkeys and a menagerie of other animals — were taken from its property on Memorial Park Road. The donkeys and some of the other statues were later recovered.

Hall County Sheriff’s Office investigators obtained warrants for Villalobos on Aug. 30, as he was suspected in at least four of the animal statute thefts, Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman B.J. Williams said. Williams said the animals were a monkey, a donkey, a bear and a dog.

Abigail Magdalena Reyes, 25, of Gainesville, was also charged with theft by receiving as a second suspect in the cemetery statue case. She was arrested Sept. 13 and has been released on a $5,700 bond.

“She was not actually in the cemetery with him while he was getting them, but she received them and helped him sell them to scrap yards,” Williams said.

ABIGAIL MAGDALENA REYES
ABIGAIL MAGDALENA REYES

On Oct. 8, deputies received word of a stolen Ford F-150 truck at the entrance to the Amberleigh Trace subdivision on Poplar Springs Road.

Villalobos, who was driving the truck, “drove directly at one of the patrol vehicles, forcing the deputy to swerve to avoid a collision,” Williams said.

The truck sped away and was later found at a home in the Willow Ridge subdivision in Gainesville, where Villalobos was arrested.

Villalobos was booked in to the Hall County Jail, where he remains with no bond.