Missing statue reunited with owner
By Bennett Hall, Gazette-Times reporter | Posted: Tuesday, June 15, 2010 6:22 pm | 1 Comment
‘Exaltation’ has been recovered and returned to its owner. (Contributed photo)
A valuable statue stolen by burglars last month has found its way home and four suspects are under arrest, thanks to some methodical detective work and some timely exposure in the newspaper.
“Exaltation,” a lucite carving depicting a nude woman that is valued at up to $22,000, was taken from the Corvallis-area home of high-tech entrepreneur Rich Carone. Also stolen in the daylight burglary were two flat-screen televisions, a computer, a Nintendo gaming system and several video games.
Deputy Adam Miller of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office was sent to investigate, but he found very little to go on.
“I’ve got no suspects at that point,” he said Tuesday. “None of the neighbors saw anything at all.”
But two days later, after a report on the crime appeared in the Gazette-Times, a witness came forward with some key information. She had been driving past Carone’s house about the time of the burglary when she saw an unfamiliar maroon pickup truck pull into the driveway.
“She didn’t think anything about it until the article came out in the paper,” Miller said.
The woman was able to describe the truck and the driver, giving Miller his first clues in the case.
Then a Corvallis police officer showed Miller some photos of petty theft suspects taken by security personnel at the Corvallis Fred Meyer store. One of the pictures showed a maroon pickup and three people, one of whom matched the driver described by the witness.
“I was able to trace the truck back to one of the individuals in the photograph,” Miller said.
After that, the dominoes started to fall. On Monday, deputies took four suspects into custody: Ryan Christopher Garrette, 37, of Philomath; Christopher Charles Gantt, 40, of Corvallis; Lori Eillen Lemhouse, 37, of Corvallis; and Cynthia Diane Kramer, 52, of Corvallis.
They face a variety of charges, ranging from hindering prosecution and theft by receiving to first-degree burglary and aggravated theft.
Miller said he believes Garrette entered Carone’s house and came out with the stolen goods while Gantt acted as driver and lookout. Lemhouse is the owner of the truck.
When the arrests were made Monday, Miller said, deputies recovered Carone’s 36-inch flat-screen TV and desktop computer at Garrette and Kramer’s residence. But the other items were still missing — including “Exaltation.”
“Once the article came out in the paper, the heat was on, and Ryan gave the statue to Cindy to dispose of,” Miller said.
“The rumor was she’d thrown it in the river,” he added, “but none of us really believed that.”
Instead, Miller said, Kramer gave the 23-inch-by-13-inch-by-13-inch block of acrylic to an unknown person for safekeeping. That person then gave it to two other individuals, who anonymously turned in the statue at the Law Enforcement Building on Tuesday.
By about 4:30 Tuesday afternoon, Carone was at the Law Enforcement Building to bring his missing artwork home.
He credited Miller and the Sheriff’s Office for solving a case that at first looked hopeless.
“It’s almost unbelievable,” Carone said. “It wasn’t obvious.”
Bennett Hall can be reached at 541-758-9529 or bennett.h…@lee.net.