Police seek suspect in museum theft

PARKERSBURG – Police are searching for the male suspect who was caught on video allegedly stealing a bayonet, a chaplain’s cap and an airborne military patch from the Veterans Museum of the Mid-Ohio Valley, officials said.

At 11:12 a.m. Saturday, an unknown man entered the Veterans Museum at 1829 Seventh St. in Parkersburg, said Gary Farris, director of the Veterans Museum. When the man left the premises, he was believed to have a World War I-era bayonet, a World War II-era chaplain’s cap and a World War II-era airborne military patch in his pockets, said Farris.

Farris valued the bayonet at between $300-$600. The airborne patch is valued at up to $100, Farris said. He could not assign a price to the hat, because of its rarity.

The theft was not noticed until Monday evening, when Farris realized the chaplain’s cap was missing. A review of the security tapes identified the additional items as the suspect was witnessed putting them into his pockets, said Farris.

The Veterans Museum has been closed for about a month for renovations, said Farris. Displays were changed around and entire areas were redone, he said.

After only the front room had been completed, Farris decided to open the museum to the public again.

The back room, where the bayonets were lying on a table, was off-limits to the public, said Farris.

“I’m not sure how the man got past the employee, but he knew exactly what the valuable items were in the museum and went straight for them,” said Farris.

The video showed the suspect sliding the bayonet into his pocket in the back room, said Farris. The suspect then knocked the chaplain’s hat from its mannequin in the front room, kneeled to pick it up, and put it in his pocket, Farris said.

“That chaplain’s hat is irreplaceable, not only because it is rare, but because it belonged to Captain David Kinsler, the chaplain who walked into a German-occupied town and talked them into surrendering to Allied troops without a single shot being fired,” Farris said.

The suspect then reached across a barricade in the library and picked up an airborne military patch and added it to his pocket collection before leaving the building, said Farris.

The Parkersburg Police Department processed the video of the theft, said Chief Joseph Martin. They have pictures of the subject, and are hoping the public can identify him.

The suspect signed the guest register with “an obviously fake name,” said Martin. He listed his address as Manchester, Ohio, Martin said. He is believed to be 40 years old, and police do not think he is from the area, said Martin.

Anyone with information on the suspect’s identification or where he could be is asked to call the Parkersburg Police Department at 304-424-8444 or to contact the 911 Communications Center. Tips can be left anonymously on the police website at www.parkersburgpolice.com