Updated 5:15 p.m. ET
In the dead of night last weekend in North Carolina’s Alexander County, a massive concrete statue of a rooster disappeared from its perch in front of a poultry farm.
The white rooster stands about 4 feet tall and has a bright red wattle, Alexander County Sheriff Chris Bowman tells The Two-Way. It is valued at more than $1,000. But perhaps the most impressive aspect of the lawn ornament is its considerable weight — approximately 3,000 pounds, according to Bowman.
Large concrete lawn ornaments of this kind are not uncommon in the area, which is home to numerous poultry farms, according to the sheriff. But he says this case is “very strange.”
It’s the first time in his 37 years with the sheriff’s department that he’s seen a theft like this: “We’ve had larceny of yard ornaments but nothing of this size and weight, and we still don’t know why anyone would want to take and steal this type of ornament.”
He says authorities received reports of a tractor in the area the night the rooster was stolen. They found it Thursday, still in the county.
“We found evidence of white paint on the forks of the tractor that we believe matches the paint from the concrete statue rooster,” Bowman says.
Bowman says authorities have apprehended a man they believe has run afowl (sorry!) of the law.
Andrew Emilious Justice, 32, of nearby Taylorsville, has been charged with felony larceny and misdemeanor injury to real property. He also faces a charge of reckless driving — Bowman says Justice came flying off the state highway and slid into the driveway as he arrived to meet with police.
Pete Gilleland, who runs the poultry farm, tells The Two-Way that he is baffled by the theft of the statue, which he gave his wife as a birthday gift five or six years ago.
He has no idea why someone would go to the trouble of stealing the giant rooster. As for the suspect, “I do not know him; I have no relationship with him,” he says. “I recognize him, but that’s about all.”
Gilleland finds the theft all the more surprising because the statue is “very difficult to move.” When he initially brought it home, he used a skid loader. To make off with it, one would very likely need a tractor, which he says typically doesn’t go over 20 miles per hour or drive at night.
And perhaps the biggest question — where is the rooster now? Authorities found the base of the statue several miles away from its home, but the rest of the bird remains missing. When questioned about the rooster’s whereabouts, “this individual did not cooperate,” Bowman says.
Justice has been placed under a $10,000 secured bond and is scheduled to appear in court on Monday.