Woman held in D.C. vandalism

3 more landmarks, including cathedral, found spattered with green paint

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WASHINGTON -- A wave of vandalism continued to mar some of Washington's more popular landmarks Monday, with at least three more attractions spattered with green paint, and authorities announced the arrest of a woman near one of the incidents at Washington National Cathedral.

The latest crimes occurred three days after the Lincoln Memorial was hit in similar fashion. On Monday, the light-green paint was discovered on an organ in the cathedral's Bethlehem Chapel, in the cathedral's Children's Chapel and on the granite base of a statue next to the Smithsonian Castle on the Mall.

D.C. police said Monday evening that they had charged Tian Jiamel, 58, whom they believe to be homeless, with one count of defacing property.

The mysterious markings on the statue of Abraham Lincoln blemished one of the nation's most visited attractions and an iconic symbol of freedom. In the cathedral, they tarnished what is widely known as the nation's house of worship -- a building still under repair after an earthquake two years ago caused such severe damage that it closed for three months.

A church spokesman called the destruction "heartbreaking," but said it could be repaired. The cathedral was closed for several hours Monday afternoon -- the first time since the quake -- but it reopened in time for an evening concert with its choir and the Choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Authorities were still trying to determine late Monday whether any of the destruction is connected. They said they would test paint samples to determine whether the same material was used at each location.

By evening, U.S. Park Police investigators, who are probing the Mall spatters, had arrived at the D.C. police department's 2nd District station, where Ms. Jiamel was being questioned. According to two police officials with knowledge of the investigation, the Park Police, in their investigation of the Lincoln Memorial incident, had been looking for an Asian woman who possibly was homeless.

She had been arrested in the Children's Chapel as D.C. police searched the church after paint was found about 2 p.m. on an organ in the Bethlehem Chapel. The basement chapel, built in 1912, is one of the building's oldest parts. It was the site of President Woodrow Wilson's funeral in 1924 and his entombment for several decades.

Authorities said the paint was still wet, and the fresh crime scene prompted a quick response and frantic search through a labyrinth of chapels and alcoves. Authorities then found more paint -- and the woman-- in the Children's Chapel, just off the nave. The small prayer room is built to the scale of a 6-year-old child, with a baptismal font and small kneelers.

Pictures of the damage released by the cathedral show paint sprayed or thrown onto an organ's pipes in the Bethlehem Chapel. Paint is also visible on the floor and on a large card identifying the organ, built in the 1950s. In the Children's Chapel, paint is evident on the floor and on the church pew sides. Cathedral spokesman Richard Weinberg said workers would soon begin scrubbing off the paint. He estimated damage at $15,000.

More than 1,000 people a day typically tour the cathedral during the high season; the church draws about a half-million visitors a year.

Another report Monday described paint found on a statute of Martin Luther in Northwest Washington's Thomas Circle. D.C. police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump said police are aware of the report and are investigating it.

The damage at the Lincoln Memorial was first reported about 1:30 a.m. Friday by people out for a late-night stroll. National Park Service spokeswoman Carol Johnson said workers have removed 90 percent of the paint, but it will be several more days before scaffolding alongside the 91-ton statue is removed.



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