Third person charged in Independence statue theft

06/21/2013 5:52 PM

06/21/2013 5:52 PM

Authorities on Friday accused a third person in the theft and destruction of a bronze pioneer woman statue that belonged to an Independence museum.

Randy Perez Jr., 29, of Independence is charged with one count of property theft worth more than $25,000, a Class B felony.

Bond was set at $75,000 cash.

Prosecutors charged two other people Thursday in the theft from the National Frontier Trails Museum. Jeremy W. Ratliff, 36, and Kelli L. Summers, 33, both of Independence, each were charged with one count of felony theft.

Bond was set at $50,000 each.

Independence police had said Thursday they wanted to question Perez, reportedly also known as “Bubba.”

On Friday Perez agreed to come into the Independence Police headquarters to be interviewed. During the interview Perez admitted that he was with Summers and Ratlif at a Kansas City scrapyard while attempting to sell the metal.

But Perez denied that he had any role in the statue’s theft.

After museum officials reported the statute missing Monday, police notified area scrap dealers to watch out for it.

Employees of 12th Street Recycling in Kansas City notified police that two men had showed up there two days earlier with a trash can filled with pieces of bronze, some of them blue. The pioneer woman statute had been treated to make her dress appear blue.

Salvage yard employees declined to buy the scrap.

Surveillance video made available by the scrapyard led police to a maroon Ford Escort, which they located in Independence along with Summers and Ratliff.

Court documents say Summers told police she drove the Escort Wagon into the museum courtyard on Saturday, and that Ratliff and another man loaded the statue into the back. She said they took the statue to the second man’s house in Independence. When she and Ratliff came back later, she told police, the statue was in a trash can, in pieces.

The value of the 6-foot-tall statue, known as “Woman of the West,” was estimated at $75,000.

In addition, prosecutors also filed a separate second degree burglary charge against Perez. In that case, Perez allegedly unlawfully entered an Independence home Feb. 14. Prosecutors requested a cash bond of $25,000.

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