Thief sold library statues for scrap, police say
A homless man has been charged with stealing two bronze statues from the Waukegan Public Library, which were worth about $15,000 combined, and selling them as scrap for just over $265.
Daniel R. Ramos, 30, was charged with theft from a government property after he confessed to police that he and another person stole the statues during the overnight hours of May 29 to May 30 and sold them to JB Metals in Chicago for $268.80, police said Thursday.
Ramos told police he and the other person, who has not yet been charged, noticed the statues were loosely secured to their bases and could easily be removed. Police said the statues weighed about 75 pounds each.
Library officials disagreed with the "loosely secured" statement.
"They were cemented as well as bolted down," said Elizabeth Stearns, the library's assistant director of community services. "They would have had to really work at it."
Both statues have since been melted down by the scrap company, located at 2910 Carrol Ave. on Chicago's West Side, according to police.
"In our wildest dreams we would not expect that a scrap yard would accept a piece of art as scrap metal," Stearns said.
The statues were donated to the library during its foundation's Art of a Story project, which installed 14 bronze sculptures in the library's courtyard, 128 N. County St.
Police are attempting to obtain an arrest warrant on the second thief, Waukegan police Cmdr. Gabe Guzman said.
Although the statues were insured at their original values, the library is working with the donors to determine whether to replace them with replicas, commission a new statue or possibly put the money toward a fund for a statue of famed author Ray Bradbury, who was born in Waukegan and died last week.
The library has since installed security cameras in the courtyard area, which Stearns described as a well-lit public space in front of the library.
The first statue, "Little Scholar," depicted a child lying perched on his elbows while reading a book and was donated to the library in 2000 by Steffi and Elmer Stone in honor of their sons and grandchildren. The statue was created by Jane Rankin of Monument, Colo.
The second statue, titled "Imagine That," was donated to the courtyard in 2003 in memory of Elvera Lake by her family and friends. The statue, which depicts a girl sitting on a stack of books while reading, was created by Kathy Anderson, who is based in Littleton, Colo.
Ramos is being held in lieu of $50,000 bail.