Man accused in statue theft says he just found the pieces

Norwich - A Willimantic man charged in the theft, destruction and sale of a bronze statue from the Yantic Cemetery told police he found the pieces of the heavy bronze statue beneath the Water Street bridge near Norwich Harbor and cashed them in as scrap.

Norwich Superior Court Judge Robert Young set the bond at $150,000 Tuesday for Sean P. McNee, 43, of 182 South Park Road, Willimantic, charged by Norwich police with first-degree larceny, first-degree criminal mischief and desecration of a grave site in connection with the destruction of a 120-year-old bronze statue from the grave of Sarah Osgood at the Yantic Cemetery. The statue was valued at $35,700.

A public defender was appointed for McNee, and he was placed on a medical watch in prison. He is scheduled to appear again in Norwich Superior Court on March 29.

Police said more arrests are expected in the case.

According to the affidavit, Tim Devivo of Willimantic Waste contacted Norwich police on Feb. 24 after hearing a TV news story about the missing statue. Devivo told police chunks of a bronze statue were brought in on Feb. 11, and he immediately became suspicious and set the pieces aside in case they had been stolen.

Police collected the remains and reassembled the five pieces to determine that it was the stolen statue, with the head missing.

Willimantic Waste officials provided police with the driver's license information for McNee, the man who brought the bronze segments to the facility, and license plates for the two vehicles, a Cadillac Seville and a GMC Jimmy, both belonging to McNee.

Police interviewed McNee later that morning at his Willimantic home, and he allegedly told police he found the statue pieces under a bridge in Norwich near the harbor.

Police escorted McNee to the site, and reached it only by climbing over and around a 12-foot high fence. At one point, they could only continue by having both hands on the fence, the warrant stated. Police said the largest piece of the statue, weighing 226 pounds, would not have fit under the fence.

McNee told police he went to the Howard T. Brown Memorial Park the morning of Feb. 11, shot heroin and fell asleep. At first he told police he woke up to a loud banging sound beneath the Water Street bridge and later told police he saw three men cutting up the statue.

Police learned that McNee had worked for R.H. Snow Memorial Co. of Norwich until December and was familiar with the Yantic Cemetery. A former co-worker told police they had been to the cemetery many times for installing gravestones.

McNee, however, told police he did not know the cemetery.

McNee told police that a GMC Jimmy is used by his friend, Richard Chamberlin of Lebanon. At the Lebanon home at 9 West Island Beach Road, police discovered tire tracks in the snow and many footprints to a shed, where grinding and cutting tools were found and seized.

Police interviewed brothers Ronald and Richard Chamberlin at the home.

Ronald Chamberlin told police he hadn't been to the shed in several months, while Richard referred police to his brother and said he did not want "to be labeled as a 'snitch,'" the affidavit said.

Police also interviewed McNee's girlfriend, Jodi Despard, who told police she accompanied McNee and Richard Chamberlin to the waste facility and that McNee told her he had found the scrap.


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