Burglars Heist Museum Artifacts

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Sometime between 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday, someone pried open the side door of the historic Pine-Strawberry Community Center building and made off with between 25 and 50 items of historical value.


The president of the Pine-Strawberry Historical Society estimated Monday the value of the missing items at $25,000. He said there is no insurance on the building's historical contents.


Melvin Van Vorst, president of the historical society, and a crew of volunteers were trying to determine Monday exactly what was taken. Most of the items were on loan to the historical society from local residents, Van Vorst said.


The crime was discovered when volunteer Marlene Bonney showed up at 1 p.m. Sunday to work her shift. She noticed the door was ajar and one tug on the handle proved her correct.


Her husband Bob, a Gila County Sheriff's deputy, was with her, and the pair called the Sheriff's Department. Deputy John Finger joined the Bonneys at the scene to begin the investigation.


"I knew immediately that the cash register was missing," Marlene Bonney said. But once she got a good look inside, she saw what she said was an unusual carefulness to the robbery.


"It was as if they were respectful of what they didn't take," Bonney said. "They were very selective, almost as if they had a shopping list."


The large brass cash register was on loan from Ralph Fuller's family. It had been used in the old gas station by Mr. Fuller and had been valued at $10,000, Van Vorst said. A U.S. Cavalry saddle from the Civil War, antique guns, women's clothing and children's toys were among the items taken.


While the burglar -- or burglars -- took about $120 in cash from the register and donation box, left behind were computers, a sound system, a television, a VCR and a slide projector in the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce Office, said Van Vorst. The chamber moved its office into the historical building that houses the museum in the beginning of summer to share volunteers.


Van Vorst said the robbery looked like a methodical collection of specific items. He said the bandits must have been there before and knew exactly what they wanted.


With other community organizations already offering help, the P-S Historical Society is offering a $1,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest and conviction in connection with the crime.


Anyone wishing to contribute to the reward money can contact Melvin Van Vorst at 476-4791.

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