Image: Charlie Tuna
Lou Sennick  /  The World via AP
Lisa Campbell and her mother, Mel Campbell, look over the pieces of Charlie the Tuna on June 6 behind a fire station in Charleston.
updated 6/13/2008 1:28:07 PM ET 2008-06-13T17:28:07

It turns out the fate of Charlie the Tuna of Charleston, Ore., was sorry indeed. The 8-foot Monterey cypress sculpture that used to greet visitors to the coastal fishing town was filleted by two young men who stole it as a prank and then, panicked they would be found out, took chain saws to it.

Not that Charlie would have lasted much longer anyway, the town learned, what with the way bugs and rot had hollowed out his innards.

The statue stood beside the South Slough Bridge into Charleston until Mark Santos and Marvin Terry Jr. swiped it last month.

"We had planned to wait a little while and then leave Charlie in a random place in town where he could be returned unharmed," they said in an apology letter published in The World of Coos Bay.

But someone tipped off sheriff's deputies, who started nosing around. Santos and Terry rushed to their hiding place and tried to move Charlie. But the statue wouldn't fit in their truck.

"We decided to chop him up so we could move him," they said. "This was not pre-planned."

Deputies caught them in the act and charged them with theft and criminal mischief.

Mel Campbell of the merchants association had painted Charlie many times over the years — he was in blue with an orange hat, after the StarKist ads' Charlie.

Santos has paid her a visit, and Campbell is asking for leniency.

"This was just a terrible, dumb, stupid prank that went absolutely wrong," she said.

A wake is planned Saturday at the town's visitors center. The Wild Women of Charleston and the Tuna Guys will offer musical moments. The remains are to be burned and buried at the center.

Mourners are invited to share stories about Charlie, and tuna recipes.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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