The high demand and soaring prices for scrap metal appeared to be the reason a 7-foot statue of Buddha, covered in copper-laden bronze, was stolen from an outdoor temple shrine at the Thai Buddhist Center of Minnesota, police said.
Police Chief Jeff Beahen said a 45-year-old Elk River woman was arrested Friday night, and a male family member was being looked at as another suspect in the theft.
The statue, valued at $10,000, was stolen Wednesday night, and a detective issued a statewide alert to police and scrap dealers Thursday with a photo of the stolen statue.
Early Friday afternoon, a recycling company in Monticello called the detective, saying they had taken in two pieces of scrap they believed to be from the statue.
Police recovered the right shoulder and right hip of the statue, each weighing about 60 pounds, and with the help of the recycler were able to identify the woman who had brought them in.
"There are another 10 pieces or so, and I hope the other recycling companies are as diligent in talking with us," Beahen said.
The statue was specially made in Thailand for the center.
"It's too bad," said temple member Jay Cramer. "The whole community is real sad. It's a sacred piece."
But Cramer said there was some relief in knowing that the statue was stolen for money and not because of bigotry.
A new law took effect in Minnesota Aug. 1 requiring scrap dealers to keep detailed records of all transactions. Sellers must show state-issued IDs, and dealers must pay them with checks or electronic transfers and take pictures of them and their vehicles.