During the 2012 Kimball Arts Festival, Sante Fe, New Mexico, artist Frederick Prescott's lion sculpture was stolen by an unknown individual. On Tuesday, a group of bow hunters found the sculpture disassembled and hidden within the forests of the Uinta Mountains.
Salt Lake City resident Kyle Lindeman was bow hunting with a group of people near Spring Canyon in the Uintas on Tuesday when he said he noticed something out of the ordinary.
"We noticed something orange quite a ways up the road. We thought it was a vest or something and we walked up to it and noticed it was a lion," Lindeman said. "We didn't think much of it we didn't want to take it back or anything. We kind of had a feeling it was stolen because of where it was."
Lindeman and his friends then did some research online about the sculpture and determined it was Prescott's work from last year's festival. That's when he called Park City Police who referred it to the Summit County Sheriff's Office.
"They then guided us in on Wednesday morning to actually recover [the sculpture]," said Summit County Detective Sergeant Ron Bridge.
Prescott said he was astounded when he heard how and where the sculpture was recovered.
"The whole thing sounded bizarre that someone took it nine miles into the middle of nowhere and left it [there]. The whole story is wild," Prescott said.
The pieces were not all in one place, Lindeman added. The legs and head were found in one location while the body, he said, was located up on the top of a cliff.
"It's kind of weird where it was. I don't think we would have ever even found it where it was," Lindeman said. "I think [the thieves] realized that because [the theft] was in the newspaper at that time, they got nervous and more than likely tried to hide it up there."
The lion sculpture is ruined completely, Prescott said. In order to reassemble the piece, the powder coating would have to be burned off and then sandblasted. The thieves, he said, did not steal the moving parts that went with the sculpture.
"They stole a $15,000 sculpture, but it won't work without the moving parts," Prescott said. "We'll probably never know [who stole it]. This is the third piece we've had stolen in Park City. One we've never gotten back."
Prescott added that it will take a lot of money to fix it, but he first has to have it shipped back to New Mexico so he can "assess the damages." He was very impressed with the work of Lindeman and his fellow bow hunters.
"I thought it was great that they found it. Then they did their homework. They had to do a lot of homework to find out whose it was and where it was stolen," Prescott said.
Prescott has a history of stolen pieces during his shows in Park City. Three or four years ago, he said, a piece was stolen that he never got back. More recently, he also had a piece stolen that was being temporarily displayed in front of a business on Main Street. That one was found a year later in a dumpster, heavily damaged, Prescott said.
At this year's Kimball Arts Festival, Prescott said he locked up all of his pieces.
"I've never had sculptures stolen like this before only in Park City. Why in Park City?" Prescott said. "People don't like to see that go on in their town. It's kind of disturbing that people would come into these events and steal things like this."