Louie the Clown’s long nightmare has finally ended.
Nearly a decade after he went missing, the beloved mascot at Wichita’s Joyland amusement park is free again and was to be re-introduced during a media briefing Thursday morning.
On Tuesday afternoon, Wichita police searched a residence in central Wichita connected with Damian Mayes’ residence at 1721 E. Lewis Circle and located the missing clown. Mayes was a former employee of the park who built and renovated organs.
A Harvey County jury convicted Mayes in 2010 of aggravated indecent liberties with a child and aggravated criminal sodomy. Mayes, now 39, is not eligible for parole until 2028, according to Kansas Department of Corrections records. He is serving his sentence at the Norton Correctional Facility.
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Three groups worked together to bring Louie the Clown home – members of the Wichita Police Department, Margaret and Stan Nelson’s family, who owned the amusement park at 2801 S. Hillside; and the Historic Preservation Alliance of Wichita and Sedgwick County.
“It is a great feeling we finally have found it,” said Margaret Nelson Spear. “And that it is where it is supposed to be at least in our hands and then we can do what we want. It is a big relief. We are pleased.”
In the years since he disappeared, Louie the Clown almost obtained urban legend status.
“Like Lazarus rising from the dead, we have Louie the Clown recovered,” said Greg Kite, president of the Historic Preservation Alliance of Wichita and Sedgwick County. “We have been working on this for months, accumulating information, photographs and statements.”
Postings on Facebook helped authorities link Mayes’ residence with the clown, Kite said. The postings were made by Mayes’ sister.
“I can’t undervalue Facebook postings,” Kite said. “It is amazing what people will say – unknowingly or unwittingly.”
Kite referred to Louie as one of the most symbolic pieces from Joyland.
“Louie at the organ is what all children remember,” Kite said. “He was intriguing – a little scary looking at his face and hands moving and tantalizing. You always had opposing feelings of excitement and a little fear.
“He is one of the marquee pieces from Joyland and needs to be preserved for the community.”