FLETCHER, N.C. (ACT) - When Jan Stepp arrived for work Monday morning, she couldn't believe her eyes.
Christmas decorations that had been painstakingly set up outdoors by volunteers at the Charlie's Angels Animal Rescue shelter were gone.
Metal snowmen, an artificial Christmas tree and large ornaments that had been hanging from the rafters on the porch had vanished from the facility on Hendersonville Road, beside Smiley's Flea Market.
"I was just dumbfounded," said Stepp, the shelter's manager. "Everything was gone. They even took the extension cord and yard stake."
She said the decorations were taken sometime Sunday night or early Monday morning. The lighted decorations had been left turned on, so someone had to unplug them to steal them, Stepp said.
"What went through my mind is just how sick someone is who would do that," Stepp said. "I just wanted to sit in my car and bawl. It had looked so good."
She estimated the value of the decorations at about $500. The Fletcher Police Department is investigating.
Charlie's Angels rescues adoptable dogs and cats in danger of being euthanized from area animal shelters, then works to find homes for them. The nonprofit networks with other animal rescue groups, often in the Northeast, to find the pets suitable owners.
Some of the animals have gone on to do amazing things, including a hound named Boomer who is now working as a search and rescue dog in Canada.
Erma Rhodes, Charlie's Angels vice president, said the theft isn't the first time the shelter has been targeted by thieves.
About a month ago, someone entered the front door while Stepp was in the back of the building and stole a new laptop computer.
And in February, someone stole about $1,000 in cash the group had raised through collecting parking fees from customers for nearby Smiley's.
But the latest incident is particularly upsetting, Rhodes said.
"We are an all-volunteer group," she said. "We just really didn't expect people to steal from animals. But we found out they will. It's the Grinch who stole Christmas. I just hope whoever did this will rest well knowing that they have taken from these animals. How could you steal from helpless animals? How can you sleep?"