Salt Lake City police are on the hunt for four people captured on surveillance video stealing a 700-pound statue of Mormon prophets Joseph Smith and Brigham Young from a business park early Tuesday.
The heist of the bronzed iconic figures of the Mormon Church — which is headquartered in Salt Lake City — was likely the work of thieves hoping to chop it up and sell it in chunks, according to Det. Robert Ungricht.
"It's not something they could easily move intact on the market," he said. "If they did, they'd likely wait until the heat was off."
The camera footage shows a white Suburban with a black trailer pulling into a parking lot and backing up to the statue. The four people — three men, one with a noticeable limp, and a woman — are seen loading and hauling the statue off in a matter of minutes.
Police say the statue is estimated to be worth about $125,000.
Lena Toritch and Roger Young worked on the statue for a year, completing it in 2007. Toritch said that they stored it at their Salt Lake City studio before it was moved to Northgate Business Park last year, and that the owners of the statue, which depicts Young and Smith sitting on a bench, were looking for a permanent home for the work.
Moving and stealing the statue, Toritch said, would've required planning.
"When we moved it, we had to use a variety of hoists," she said. "It's not like you can just put it in a bucket."
Ungricht said it was unclear exactly how the four lifted the statue — that portion of the heist took place off camera — though he speculated a skid lift may have been used to get it into the open trailer. He said the crime occurred around 4 a.m., and a neighboring business called police a few hours later when the footage was reviewed.
Ungricht said that despite the high-profile subjects of the statute, the crime was reminiscent of a statue theft about four years ago outside a local school. He said that statute was made of bronze as well.
"We suspect [that statue] went to a refinery in a million pieces," Ungricht said. "It was never recovered."