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More than two years after it vanished from its rocky perch in the Mojave Desert, a controversial cross reappeared Monday, wrapped up and zip-tied to a fence post along Highway 92 in San Mateo County.
The Mojave Cross was at the center of a Supreme Court case about whether the cross was an appropriate memorial for federal land. Two weeks after the court ruled to allow the 7-foot-tall metal cross to remain on the land, it vanished in May 2010, prompting outrage from veterans groups that vowed to replace it.
"This cross is an important historical artifact," read a note that was attached to the cross, which was found along the road near Highway 35 by deputies acting on a tip from a television news station. "It is in fact the Mojave Cross, taken on the evening of May 9, 2010, from Sunrise Rock in the Mojave Desert. I would be very grateful if you would be so kind as to notify the appropriate authorities of its presence here."
According to the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, there is a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those who stole it.
The cross is in good condition, according to a sheriff's office news release. A Mojave Desert police officer who is familiar with the cross was contacted, and he was able to confirm that the cross is indeed the missing memorial.
The sheriff's office said it will contact the San Francisco branch of the National Park Service to take custody of the cross.
The memorial was taken from where it stood atop a rock in the 1.6 million-acre Mojave National Preserve, about 70 miles south of Las Vegas.
The first cross was erected at the site in 1934 by the Veterans of Foreign Wars to honor soldiers killed in World War I. Various versions have been vandalized through the years, and the metal one went up in the late 1990s.
Federal courts previously ruled that the presence of the cross in a national preserve was an unconstitutional violation of the separation of church and state.
After it vanished, the theft raised the ire of veterans groups and civil libertarians alike.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.