Sheriff: It’s ‘hard to hide’ swan statue stolen by naked man

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA)  — It took Polk authorities less than a week to solve the mystery of a missing swan statue named Asprye, who was stolen by a naked man in Lakeland.

“This one needs to be found,” said Sheriff Grady Judd as he held up a picture of the missing swan on Friday morning.  “It’s a lonely swan.  It’s not with its family anymore.”

Sheriff Judd put out an all-points bulletin for the missing 5-foot tall, $25,000 swan that hadn’t been seen since last Thursday.

The black and white checkered swan was finally found on Friday by a fisherman off Old Tampa Hwy—not even one mile from the building where it was stolen.

The fisherman, Kelly Arnold, 32, spotted the swan when he went fishing with a friend yesterday, but he did not realize it was stolen. He told his mother Maria Burlingame about the discovery, and she contacted authorities. Maria told the PCSO she saw media coverage of the stolen swan on television.

“Yeah, you don’t find that every day for sure. Why would you do something like that? It’s stupid,” Burlingame told News Channel 8.

She’s still dumbfounded about the entire incident.

“You’ve got to be weird to be going and breaking into someplace naked, and then to steal a truck, and then you’re going to dump $25,000, one just up in the middle of the woods,” she said scratching her head.

Asprye garnered national attention when the Polk County Sheriff’s Office released surveillance video that shows a naked man driving away from a Lakeland storage center in a stolen pickup truck loaded with the statue.

The man, Ronald Thompson, 47, is seen on surveillance holding a white bucket in front of his body as he tries to open doors at the facility.   The truck, which had been reported stolen, was later located by cops.

Thompson was eventually arrested in Tampa and charged with theft, but he would not tell investigators anything about the $25,000 swan’s whereabouts, and investigators still don’t know why he was naked.

“Look folks. Where are you going to hide a five-foot tall, checkered swan? If someone’s harboring this swan and not telling us, we’re going to put them in jail. And we hope when we find them, they have clothes on,” Polk Sheriff Grady Judd said at a press conference on Friday before the swan’s discovery.

Thompson is being held at the Hillsborough County Jail on one charge of grand theft of a motor vehicle and another charge of grand theft.  He is expected to be arraigned first thing Saturday morning.

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