Like the victim of a precision mafia hit, the body’s head and other identifying features were sawed off and thrown into a deep pit.
But despite taking this precaution, the thief who stole an $80,000 bronze statue of beloved UC Berkeley crew coach Carroll Ebright slipped up in a major way.
San Leandro police said this week that they recovered the statue’s torso when they found it lying in the bed of a pickup truck in front of a storage facility in the 1100 block of Davis Street. Although it was missing its head, feet and name plate, the statue’s chest still bore the inscription “California Crew” and its left hand clutched a tell-tale coxswain’s megaphone.
Authorities had been searching for the statute ever since it was hauled off from a boathouse near Lake Merritt on Jan. 12. For days, photos of the statue had been broadcast on local media and passed around through fliers distributed by police.
On Wednesday, police announced that over the weekend they had arrested 46-year-old Dean Gamaza in connection with the theft.
Police said that Gamaza became a prime suspect as soon as they discovered the torso: Gamaza lives next door to the parking lot where the truck was found and was known to be on probation.
When they searched Gamaza’s back yard, police found a 3-foot-wide, 3-foot-deep hole containing the statue’s head, feet and nameplate, they said. Officers also found a reciprocating saw and other power tools.
“It is believed that those saws may have been used to cut the head and feet from the statue,” police said in a statement. “The rest of the statue had several cuts in it, as if someone tried to cut the 300-pound statue into smaller pieces, or into pieces so that it was unidentifiable.”
Bronze, along with metals like copper, aluminum and brass, is often stolen and sold to scrap dealers for a profit.
“In the San Francisco Bay Area, theft of recycling is a big business for a lot of people,” Lt. Robert McManus said.
Jail records show Gamaza is being held without bail on suspicion of violating his probation and receiving stolen property. He is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday morning in Alameda County.
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