LUTZ, Fla. (FOX 13) - Hillsborough County deputies are trying to figure out who went through a lot of effort to steal a 116-year-old church bell from a church in Lutz.
On Tuesday, deputies said someone unbolted and stole the metal bell that was held in a cast iron frame at the Christ Cumberland Presbyterian Church on Holly Lane.
"The bell has the date on it. [It says] Lakeland Cumberland Presbyterian Church 1903," said Lita Swindle, a longtime church member.
Swindle said the bell originally hung in the steeple of a church in Lakeland until 1924, then moved to Seminole Heights before finally ending up in Lutz.
"They took the bell and put it on a stand outside," Swindle said.
Neighbors were the first to notice it was gone, alerting the church last week. Deputies believe the bell was taken sometime last month. A brass plate saying “In Memory of Nancy White” was also stolen from a nearby tree.
Everyone learned about the bell Sunday.
"I don’t even know what it's really made out of, but the sentimental value is quite a bit as far as our history is concerned," said Swindle.
And they want their piece of history returned.
"Typically, these bells are made out of a lot of different types of metal, so more than likely the people or the person who stole it was hoping to sell that metal and make some money off it," said Crystal Clark, a spokesperson for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
It was not an easy theft. The bell weighs hundreds of pounds.
"So, we're expecting this to be several suspects or at least a minimum of two who might have been involved in all this," said Clark.
Swindle said she is not upset, instead keeping her faith that all things work together for good.
"If this will touch somebody's life and bring them to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, then that's a good thing," said Swindle.
Deputies say anyone with information is asked to call HCSO at 813-247-8200. In order to be eligible for a cash reward, they ask you to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477), report anonymously online at www.crimestopperstb.com, or send a mobile tip using the P3 Tips Mobile application.