Four plead guilty in theft of downtown sculpture
August 24, 2001 — Source: Naperville Sun, The (IL) — Author: Bill Bird
Four men will pay nearly $1,000 in restitution and hundreds of dollars in fines for their roles in the June 24 theft of a bronze sculpture depicting two clasped hands.
The sculpture, which has been recovered and restored to its downtown Naperville location, was placed to honor the memory of the late civic leader James Wehrli.
Kevin M. Bee, Benjamin J. Marion, Joseph P. O'Leary and Benjamin D. Witzigreuter pleaded guilty Wednesday in DuPage County Circuit Court in Wheaton.
Judge Edmund P. Bart accepted the pleas, which resulted from discussions among the four men, Naperville police and city attorneys.
O'Leary, 20, of Chicago, pleaded guilty to a municipal charge of damage to city property.
Bee, 20, of Naperville; Marion, 20, of Aurora; and Witzigreuter, 19, of Naperville, pleaded guilty to individual municipal charges of disorderly conduct.
All of the charges are misdemeanors.
Bart ordered the men to pay a total of $945 restitution to Naperville's Century Walk for damage done to the sculpture's marble base during the theft.
He also ordered each to pay $100 in fines and court costs, and placed each on three months of supervision.
Assistant Naperville City Prosecutor Jill G. Pelka-Wilger said prior to the hearing that all four men had cooperated with police following the theft, and had indicated they intended to make restitution in the case.
Wehrli, who died in 1994, was one of the founders of the Central Area Naperville Development Organization.
CANDO commissioned the sculpture -- now valued at $3,500 -- and installed it on Jefferson Avenue.
A Wehrli family member who was in the downtown area on a lunch break noticed the hands were missing and telephoned police.
Detectives caught a break in the case just after the Fourth of July. An anonymous caller reported overhearing two men on the Riverwalk who were discussing their possession of the sculpture and potential ways of disposing of it.
A preliminary investigation led police to Bee, who admitted his role in the theft and showed detectives where he had hidden the sculpture in his home on Chicago Avenue in Naperville.
Further investigation led police to Marion, O'Leary and Witzigreuter.
All four suspects formally surrendered July 11.