Bold thieves pillage 2 beloved landmarks - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Bold thieves pillage 2 beloved landmarks

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

We're quick these days to blame things like crime on our economic woes.

While bad times do play a part, it shouldn't serve as an excuse for those who perpetrate dastardly acts of crime against people and organizations who are working to improve the human condition.

MORE: Piece of Child Advocacy Center statue stolen

Some bold and well-equipped thieves are still on the loose after pillaging two beloved Memphis city landmarks: a bronze sculpture at the Shelby county Child Advocacy Center and an historical marker to an African-American educator in Robert Church Park were ripped from their moorings.

You can call it a crime of the heart.

"We discovered that the little girl part of our Happy Traveler's structure was missing," said Virginia Stallworth of the Child Advocacy Center.

For Memphis City Councilman Harold Collins, not even a sense of humor can make up for the blatant audacity of the historical theft.

"I would like to think that somebody borrowed it to take a backdrop and going to bring it back," Collins said.

The recent holiday season proved to be less than merry for two organizations who felt the sting of losing valuable pieces of artwork to unscrupulous thieves. Returning after Christmas, employees of the Shelby County CAC found nothing but an empty concrete base and unloosened bolts where for a decade the bronze sculpture of a little girl was forcible removed from its accompanying pieces of a little boy and a turtle.

The overall donated artwork, estimated at $20,000, had adorned the entrance to the facility for a decade.

"It was a surprise gift to the Child Advocacy Center from some very generous donor," Stallworth said. "They had seen a similar sculpture in Colorado and thought it was just perfect for the Memphis Child Advocacy Center and for 10 years helped to welcome kids who came there."

While it didn't have a record of longevity, having only been unveiled almost a year ago to the day, the theft of the 150-pound marker honoring Abram Langston Taylor, the founder of the Fraternal Organization Phi Beta Sigma, has Beale Street's  Robert Church Park looking even more barren.

Councilman Collins, who hosted the celebration with the unveiling in January 2012, spoke of the hard work it took make the project a reality.

"We had to meet with the Landmarks Commission," Collins said. "We had to go to an interview with them, so that they could verify the history we presented them. We had to go through a lot of checks and balances to place the marker and we had to invest several thousands of dollars to have it made and placed."

Although both organizations filed police reports and there could be something on a surveliance tape in the Taylor marker's theft, both groups share very little optimism.
Their prized artwork will be returned by thieves who must have used heavy equipment in heisting both pieces.

"It's heavy and it's valuable in terms of monetary value, in terms of what it means to the kids who come to the Child Advocacy Center," Stallworth said.

"I can't fathom that one person could carry that heavy marker," Collins added. "Hopefully we can get to the bottom of it and have these persons apprehended and prosecuted. It's unfortunate that we, people in our community or other communities, who are coming into our city and stealing our landmarks."

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