Tyler, Texas (FOX51) — On Thursday, Tyler Junior College announced stolen statue in 1995 on Easter Day April 16th, of long-time TJC President Dr. Harry Jenkins has been returned to campus after an 18-year-absence.
“We are pleased that this valuable piece of TJC history has been returned to us and will once again be on display for faculty, staff and students to enjoy,” Metke announced.
The life-size statue, weighing approximately 300 pounds, was last seen on Easter Sunday, April 16, 1995. Later that evening, a campus safety officer discovered it missing. Tire tracks at the scene led authorities to speculate a truck was backed up to the statue’s location. It is presumed at least two people were involved in the theft. A sharp cutting instrument was used to remove the statue from its footing.
In the days following the theft, Tyler Police and other area law enforcement agencies searched pawn shops and local iron and metal shops. No profitable leads developed and the case remained unsolved until Dr. Metke and TJC criminal justice students launched a new investigation in August 2011.
It was news coverage of the new investigation that eventually led to the statue’s recovery. Bernardo “Berny” Trevino, who had taken possession of the statue several years ago after it was left behind in an Austin, Texas apartment unit – and his friend, Matthew Spencer Remington – decided to search the Internet for information about the statue’s sculptor, John Harper. Harper’s name was inscribed on the statue.
After several searches, Remington discovered that Harper had sculpted a statue of Dr. Harry Jenkins, TJC’s third president and the namesake for the college’s oldest classroom building. Internet searches revealed stories about the College’s re-opened investigation as to location of the statue. Then, Trevino called the Tyler Police Department to report its whereabouts. Tyler PD contacted TJC Campus Police Chief Randy Melton, who traveled with Criminal Justice Professor and Department Chair Jason Waller to Austin to confirm that the statue belonged to TJC. It was returned to the TJC main campus and stored in the President’s office until today’s news conference.
“We are grateful to Mr. Trevino and Mr. Remington for their interest in finding the statue’s rightful owners and arranging for its return to TJC,” said Melton.
Metke said the statue will be cleaned and repaired – there is a small dent near its top – and then re-introduced as a TJC campus landmark. “We are going to make sure Dr. Jenkins’s statue stays here in a secure place that appropriately honors his major role in TJC history,” he said. “He’s traveled enough and now that he’s back home, we will make sure he travels no more!”
The new location for the statue will be inside Jenkins Hall, Metke said. Events surrounding its new unveiling are being planned, he added.