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Sacagawea statue taken from Fort Clatsop, possibly for drug funds

WARRENTON, Ore. (AP) -- Police are investigating the theft of a 5-foot-tall bronze statue of Sacagawea and her baby Jean Baptiste Charbonneau from Fort Clatsop.

The statue, which stood at the Netul Landing area disappeared Saturday night or early Sunday, Clatsop County Sheriff's office Sgt. Kristen Hanthorn said.

Hanthorn said the statue likely was stolen for its scrap metal value to drug users.

"There's a direct correlation to their drug use. ... The illegal scrap metal salvage and sale has been a problem everywhere," she said.

Warrenton Police Chief Bob Maxfield said prices for nonferrous metals are high and that soft metals such as bronze easily can be cut into small unrecognizable chunks.

The statue had been cut from its mounting bolts. The value of the statue, installed and dedicated in June 2004, is not known.

David Szymanski, the superintendent of Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, said theft is a federal offense. Park service employees said they did not know what the statue weighed.

He said the thief apparently drove a vehicle around shrubs that blocked access to the statue from the road and backed onto the cement landing near it.

"We think they broke the bronze," he said. The bolts which held the statue were still intact. "You can see the drag marks, where they dragged it to the truck," he said.

The statue is the creation of Jim Demetro of Battle Ground, Wash. It was donated by the Reino and Marilyn Tarkiainen family for the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Marilyn Tarkiainen was saddened at the news.

"That's so unfortunate," she said. She said she and her husband have strong ties to the North Coast and 1804-1806 Lewis and Clark expedition. She grew up in Mandan, N.D., where Sacagawea joined Lewis and Clark's expedition and where the explorers spent their first winter.

A value of $15,000 was mentioned when it was donated but Marilyn Tarkiainen said Demetro's work has gained value in recent years.

Szymanski said there is no reward offered and that the U.S. Park Service rarely offers them.

When a reward is offered, he said, it usually comes from the private sector.

Szymanski said Demetro had said the statue was "unstealable."

Anyone with information is asked to call Det. Sgt. Kristen Hanthorn at 503-325-8635

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Information from: The Daily Astorian, http://www.dailyastorian.com

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