A frog’s odd journey from Old Town to Salt Lake | ParkRecord.com

A frog’s odd journey from Old Town to Salt Lake

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

"Big Bill" would have a big story to tell if he could talk.

The bronze frog, swiped from outside the Sky Lodge in February, turned up in the neighborhood around the University of Utah in Salt Lake City in mid-April, ending a journey that somehow brought the $15,000 piece of art approximately 30 miles from its moorings in Old Town.

The Park City Police Department continues to investigate the case, and a detective says the people who took the piece could face felony charges if they are caught.

According to Mary Ford, the detective who investigated, the bronze was seen by college students in spots close to the campus, finally sitting in a grassy area between a sidewalk and a street close to 1300 East and 100 South. She says one of the students, who has a job in Park City, recognized the reddish-colored frog from an article in The Park Record about the disappearance.

The student and friends grabbed the frog from the grassy area and brought it back to the Sky Lodge, Ford says. Somebody at the Sky Lodge called the police.

It is unclear, though, who originally took "Big Bill." Ford says felony charges could eventually be filed against the people who took "Big Bill" from outside the Sky Lodge based on the value of the piece. A third-degree felony, the least serious, carries a possible prison sentence of between zero and five years and a $5,000 fine upon conviction.

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"It’s kind of unique to have such a substantial piece of artwork be recovered in such a manner," Ford, a veteran detective, says.

The bronze frog, which is a one-of-a-kind piece, weighs 150 pounds and was made by Tim Cotterill, whose nickname is the Frogman. He is best known for the frog pieces. The one that was taken is 44 inches long, 27 inches tall and 19 inches wide.

"Big Bill" had been on display on a fireplace on the Heber Avenue side of the Sky Lodge. It was installed in late 2008, soon after Silver Queen Fine Art, the owner of the piece, received "Big Bill." The piece disappeared in the overnight hours of Feb. 21, during the height of the ski season.

Afterward, Timm Hilty, the gallery’s co-owner, said was "just sick to my stomach" that somebody stole the piece. At the time, he said he would not press charges if the piece was returned within a week. Hilty said then he suspected at least two people were involved.

Rick Ryan, a Police Department captain, says the piece was slightly damaged during its time away from the Sky Lodge, saying that "it’s got a little wear and tear on it." The police are storing the piece in an evidence room.

Hilty says the gallery and its insurance firm had been in discussions about the lost piece. It is a "relief" for "Big Bill" to have been returned, he says.

"I was kind of shocked to have them call me and say it’s across the street" at the Sky Lodge, Hilty says, explaining that he figured someone had put it on display in their house or dumped it into the Jordanelle Reservoir.

He has not decided if he will press charges if the people responsible are found.

Hilty says the piece was scratched while it was gone. He must ship "Big Bill" to Cotterill for repairs. He estimates it will cost at least $3,500 for shipping and repairs. The repairs will take at least a month, Hilty estimates. He wants to put the piece back on display outside the Sky Lodge once the repairs are finished.

"Apparently it was the traveling gnome," Hilty says. "I would love to know everything it saw in the last two months."