Forest Hills woman charged with hate crime for vandalizing church statues in July: DA

A Forest Hills woman was arrested and charged Friday with the desecration of religious statues at a house of worship. (Photo courtesy of NYPD)

A Forest Hills woman was charged with hate crimes for the desecration of religious statues at a house of worship just blocks from her home in July.

Jacqueline Nikiena, 23, of Orcott Street, was arraigned before Queens Criminal Court Judge Jeffrey Gershuny on a complaint charging her with criminal mischief as a hate crime and aggravated harassment Saturday, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.

Nikiena was caught on surveillance video approaching Our Lady of Mercy Church, located at 70-01 Kessel St., in the early hours of Saturday, July 17. She can be seen removing two statues of the Virgin Mary from in front of the church, throwing them into the street and then smashing them to pieces, according to the charges. The statues are valued at more than $10,000.

“This defendant allegedly smashed two statues that were beloved touchstones at this Forest Hills church for decades,” Katz said. “The Virgin Mary is a sacred figure for Catholics and those of many faiths. This act struck beyond the value of broken property and deeply rattled an entire community’s sense of safety.”

Judge Gershuny ordered Nikiena to return to court on Oct. 12. If convicted, Nikiena faces five-to-15 years in prison.