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Stolen Mojave Desert cross turns up in Bay Area

Posted: November 6, 2012 2:00 p.m.
Updated: November 6, 2012 2:00 p.m.

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. (AP) — A controversial cross honoring war dead that was stolen from its Mojave Desert perch two years ago has been discovered hundreds of miles away in the San Francisco Bay area.

The 7-foot metal cross, which was in good condition, was discovered attached with plastic ties to a fence post near a highway in Half Moon Bay. The San Mateo County Sheriff's Department was notified by KGO-TV ( and took possession of it on Monday.

The National Park Service confirmed that markings on the cross matched those from the missing cross, sheriff's spokeswoman Rebecca Rosenblatt told the San Francisco Chronicle (

"Right now, it's in safekeeping until its return to the rightful owners. It would go back to the Mojave Desert," she said.

The cross topped Sunrise Rock in the Mojave Desert, replacing a wooden cross that was erected in 1934 to honor World War I dead.

The site in San Bernardino County became part of the 1.6-million Mojave National Preserve in 1994 and that meant the cross was on public land. A lawsuit filed in 2001 by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a retired park service employee argued that the cross violated the separation of church and state.

Federal courts ordered its removal but instead it was covered up while the legal battle continued. In April 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the cross to remain because Congress had come up with a plan to swap the site to a veterans group in return for other land.

Someone stole the cross a month later.

"This cross is an important historical artifact," read a note that was attached to the cross when it was found. The note asked the finder to notify authorities.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars planned to dedicate a replacement cross at the Mojave Desert on Sunday, which is Veterans Day.

It was unclear why the cross reappeared but it should now be kept safe, VFW member Thomas Tradewell told the Chronicle.

"From what I understand the cross they made now was made to last forever," he said. "This would sound like the best of both worlds: to have the original kept where no one can deface it or steal it again, and still have the one there that is a memorial that will be standing forever."

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.




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