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Authorities say school security tape 'ran out'

by Kim Fickett
Landmark reporter

The case of the eight-foot-tall, 700-1,000 pound stolen wood-carved Pirate, which has been the object of much speculation and many questions over the past month and a half, is still a top priority for the Platte City Police Department, according to Detective Dennis Trabue.

Police this week seem more optimistic than a couple of weeks ago, when Trabue had indicated the case was headed for inactive status.
"It's still an open case and will remain so. It's one of those cases where we're still looking and not giving up on this," stated Trabue.
"We still have the same names and the same suspects. They know who they are and we know who they are."

While Trabue didn't want to divulge a specific number of suspects, he did state that the exact number of individuals involved may be greater than the key players believed to be known.

"We have a specific number of people in mind who may have been key players, but we don't want to put a cap on the number of people who may have been involved."

Trabue stated it was confirmed by police this week that video from the security cameras in the high school didn't show any criminal activity.

According to Trabue, Platte County R-3 High School Principal Craig Robinson reported that the security camera's recording device malfunctioned at 12:20 a.m. on Sunday, March 24.

"We were able to confirm that there is only one recording device, and that one recording device records for all the cameras in the school. If the recording device malfunctions it doesn't capture any of the images from the cameras," said Trabue.

Trabue continued that the timer on the recording device showed that it ceased recording at about 12:20 a.m.

"The reason it quit recording is because it got to the end of the tape," said Trabue. "The machine is designed to record for a certain length of time. When the principal left, he made sure the tape was on and to his recollection it was turned on like normal, which has been a normal procedure for him for several years."

According to Trabue, a Platte City police officer, principal Craig Robinson and the vice-principal reviewed the tapes from the evening of the theft and determined there was nothing on the tapes prior to 12:20 a.m. to show any criminal activity.
Trabue acknowledged the recording device may have been tampered with. The technician who installed the device was called in to check its operation, and reported that the machine was working properly.

With the new information from the timer on the recording device, the police department has narrowed the time frame of the crime from 12:20 a.m., Sunday, March 24 to 10:30 a.m., Sunday, March 24. Previously the estimated time frame of the crime was between 8:30 p.m. Saturday, March 23 to 10:30 a.m., Sunday, March 24.

According to Trabue, because police haven't found any sign of forced entry, it seems likely entry was gained with a key or by a door to the school being left open intentionally.

"According to school administrators, the doors were locked and secured when they left, which leads us to believe the suspects gained access by a key," stated Trabue. "If access to the school was gained by a key, that is considered unlawful entry."

Trabue further explained that any other crime—whether it be theft or property damage that occurred following the entry of the premises—is considered burglary by law enforcement officials.

The maximum punishment in a case such as the Pilfered Pirate could be punishable by up to seven years in jail, to be determined by a judge and jury.

"In a case like this where property damage occurred, the prosecutor could make a recommendation where those responsible could make restitution for the property damage," said Trabue.

Damage was sustained to the Pirate with chips in the wood and the knob broken off the Pirate's staff, as well as gouges made in the gym floor when the Pirate was apparently dragged from the lobby to a rear door in the school.

"Due to the type of material that the Pirate is made of, fingerprints weren't easily recovered," explained Trabue.

"We're hanging in there for information from the right person and I feel like it'll happen and someone will come forward and give us the right information we need," said Trabue.

The Pirate was reportedly retrieved by school personnel several days after being taken from the high school lobby. Authorities are not saying where it was recovered.

The statue was believed to have been carved around 1974 by John Faust, an art teacher at the high school, with the help of some students.