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Second arrest made in theft of cemetery statue

By Michael Naughton and Claire Bessette

Publication: The Day

Published 03/13/2010 12:00 AM
Updated 03/13/2010 03:19 AM

Norwich - A Lebanon man was ordered held on $75,000 bond after his arraignment Friday for his alleged role in the theft and destruction of a statue from the Yantic Cemetery last month.

Richard J. Chamberlain, 46, was charged with first-degree larceny. He was arraigned in Norwich Superior Court Friday. He turned himself in to police earlier that morning after learning they obtained a warrant for his arrest. Chamberlain is due back in court April 6.

Chamberlain is the second man arrested in the statue theft, and police expect to make more arrests in the case.

The 120-year-old bronze statue was reported stolen Feb. 19. The statue, which marked the grave of Sarah Osgood at the cemetery on Lafayette Street, was valued at $35,700.

On Monday, Sean P. McNee, 43, of Willimantic, was charged with first-degree larceny, first-degree criminal mischief and desecration of a grave site.

According to the affidavit for McNee's arrest, the statue was cut into five pieces and sold as scrap metal to Willimantic Waste on Feb. 11. Owners from that company became suspicious immediately and called police when they saw a TV news report on the theft.

Police collected the remains and reassembled the five pieces to determine that it was the stolen statue, with the head missing. The head was still missing as of Friday, police said.

The owners gave police records of who brought the statue pieces to the company and a description of the vehicle - a GMC truck - they used to deliver it.

McNee told police that his friend, Chamberlain, had a GMC Jimmy. At the Lebanon home he shares with his brother, Ronald Chamberlain, 50, police discovered tire tracks in the snow and footprints to a shed where grinding and cutting tools were found and seized.

Richard said the grinding tool belonged to him, and that it had been in his vehicle when he lent the truck to Sean McNee, according to the warrant affidavit.

"Richard refused to cooperate as he did not want to be labeled as a 'snitch,'" the affidavit said.

According to the affidavit filed for Chamberlain's arrest, police interviewed him again on Feb. 26, when he allegedly admitted being with McNee and driving the Jimmy to Willimantic Waste to cash in the pieces of metal.

When city detectives interviewed McNee's girlfriend, Jodi Despard, she admitted that she and Chamberlain were with McNee when he traded in the pieces as scrap metal, according to the affidavit.

McNee further told police on Monday that he "did not steal the pieces of metal," but received them from a friend named Frank. McNee told police he used the cash to buy heroin and gave the rest of the money to Frank.

McNee is being held on $150,000 bond and is due back in court March 29.

The investigation is ongoing, police said. Anyone with information can call police at (860) 886-5561 or the anonymous tip line at (860) 886-5561, ext. 500.

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