An Alaska Native art piece stolen from the Juneau International Airport last week has been returned to its rightful owner, thanks to a tip from the public.
A Juneau Empire reader saw a photo and read an article about the missing silkscreen cedar painting of a bald eagle, representing the Tlingit Eagle clan, in the newspaper on Friday and realized she had seen it before, according to Juneau Police Department Detective Nick Garza.
Garza said the woman called JPD Friday morning and reported a man had shown her and others the art piece in an attempt to find out how much it was worth.
“He was trying to find out how much it was worth, and the person who called it in apparently had seen him with it,” Garza said in a phone interview Friday. “So she called and was, ‘Hey, a couple of days ago, this guy had it.’”
The woman gave Garza the suspect’s name, and Garza was able to track him down from there. When contacted, the man handed the artwork over to police but said he was not the thief.
“He said he found it, which is pretty typical,” Garza said. “He had a story about being out on Airport Dike trail and came across it just laying near the trees. He didn’t think it was suspicious or anything. I mean, it was kind of a questionable story that he had.”
The man was not arrested, but the case has been forwarded to the district attorney’s office for consideration of charges. His man’s name was not released since he has not been charged with a crime.
Although the case has not yet resulted in an arrest, Garza said it was “pretty cool” that the art was recovered and returned to its owner, Richard Poor.
“He was pretty stoked,” Garza said.
Poor thanked the police and the tipster for helping return the art piece, which he said was probably worth about $125 but holds a much higher sentimental value. He was good friends with the artists, Jim and May Osborne, who are both now deceased. The two artists were born and raised in Hoonah and lived in Juneau for many years before returning to their hometown.
Poor, a 68-year-old retiree, bought the art piece and a sister piece, a silkscreen painting of a raven, at a sale about a decade ago and loaned them to the airport. They were displayed on the walls, hanging just by nails, in a waiting room on the first floor of the airport’s old wing. The sister piece is still on display. Poor said he plans on re-hanging the Eagle piece sometime next week.