CHICAGO

Archdiocese of Chicago has decided not to press charges against a transient who allegedly stole the creche from the lawn of Holy Name Cathedral and presented it to workers at a local restaurant who gave him free soup.

"It's Christmas," Bishop Timothy Lyne of Holy Name Cathedral said Wednesday. "We got the crib back. In the spirit of Christmas, we decided not to prosecute."

Earlier, Bishop Lyne had said the church was not eager to prosecute 36-year-old David Lashure, an ex-convict who had served time for murder, but that he wanted to see Lashure get help. Lashure could have been charged with felony theft.

Lashure, a transient who roams downtown streets with a shopping cart, was released from prison in 1984 after serving 10 years for murder, and also has served time for robbery, police said.

The Nativity scene was discovered missing at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday. Only a decapitated baby Jesus remained on the front lawn of Holy Name Cathedral.

Detective Roy Davis said the Jesus statue was broken accidentally.

"The Christ Child was not broken out of malice," Davis said. "The Christ Child was wired down, and it broke when {the thief} pulled on it."

Lashure told Nancy Palese, owner of Nancy's Pizza, that he was dropping by to bring her and other employes of the restaurant a Christmas gift Tuesday afternoon. He brought the three shepherds, three kings, two lambs, Joseph, Mary and the head of the Jesus statue into the building.

When police arrived at the restaurant, they found Lashure sitting at a table having soup, surrounded by the missing statues.

The 10-year-old statues, valued at around $5,000, stand about 4 feet tall and weigh nearly 50 pounds each.

Police said Palese often fed Lashure and other poor and ragged street people who wander by her restaurant. Lashure apparently was attempting to repay her with a "Christmas gift," police said.