Alleged Mark Twain grave plaque bandit revealed

The Mark Twain plaque that mysteriously disappeared from the author's grave marker at Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira, N.Y., is now in police custody.
(Jason Whong / Associated Press)

Daniel M. Ruland, 32, of Elmira, N.Y., has been arrested and charged in the theft of Mark Twain’s plaque from his grave.

The plaque, which bears Mark Twain’s likeness, was reported missing on Jan. 2. It had been mounted high on a 12-foot-tall grave marker and is thought to have been removed in December.

Acting on a tip, police made contact with occupants of a vehicle leaving Ruland’s residence just before midnight Friday. The plaque was in the vehicle, and is now in police custody.


As for its condition, Elmira Police Capt. Joseph Kane told the Star-Gazette, “I didn’t see it beforehand. It may be bent slightly.”

Police have charged Ruland with petit larceny and criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree, both misdemeanors. Additional charges are possible, depending on the appraised value of the plaque.

The grave marker is 2 fathoms high -- the measure from which Samuel Clemens took his pen name, Mark Twain. The author of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” was a humorist, satirist and popular public speaker who remains one of America’s most beloved writers.

He died in 1910 at age 74. He is buried in his wife’s family plot in Elmira.

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