FARGO — Just a few days remain for those behind the theft of Fargo's Statue of Liberty to return the replica without facing criminal charges.
Mayor Tim Mahoney says the people responsible for the theft have until Friday, Aug. 2, to come clean — no questions asked, no charges filed. But if she's still missing by then, Lady Justice will come to the side of her sister.
Jessica Schindeldecker, a Fargo police spokeswoman, said the city has not yet filed a theft report with the police department. If and when a report is filed, the police will begin a criminal investigation.
For now, the city is trying to piece together where the statue ended up.
One likely spot? The bottom of the Red River.
"A lot of people are speculating that they threw it in the river," Mahoney told The Forum. The Red flows close to where the statue stood on the southeast corner of Main Avenue and Second Street, by the Veterans Memorial Bridge.
The mayor said he intends to call in Valley Water Rescue to search for the statue in the river next week if she hasn't been found by then.
The statue weighs close to 300 pounds, so at least two people were involved in the theft, he said.
Mahoney believes the statue is too heavy and eye-catching for someone to bring home and hold hostage without being noticed by a neighbor or passerby. Because of the river's proximity to the statue, he suspects that when the thieves realized how heavy it was and panicked, they resorted to tossing her in the water for a quick getaway.
He considered that the theft may be a fraternity prank, but eliminated that possibility because school is not in session. As for junkyards and pawnshops, the mayor said the city has great working relationships with such businesses and none have reported seeing the statue.
The theft happened between midnight and 1 a.m. Saturday, July 20. The timeline was determined using a camera on top of the nearby Lashkowitz High Rise that snaps a photo every hour.
"One minute it's there, the next minute it's gone," Mahoney said.
But the city didn't alert the community to the theft until a week later on Friday, July 26. Why the wait?
City spokesman Gregg Schildberger said the delay was due to obtaining the security footage and gathering as much information as possible before asking the public for help in the search.
The engineer overseeing the flood control project on Main Avenue, Nathan Boerboom, reached out to various crews and contractors working in the vicinity of the statue to learn more about the circumstances of the theft. Boerboom previously told The Forum that at the time of the theft, Main Avenue was open to traffic so anyone could have easily driven up to the site.
Derek Klosterman, flood wall construction superintendent, told The Forum that he called police Monday morning when he noticed the statue was missing.
Two months ago his crew saw the statue was leaning from people removing bolts in attempts to take it.
"They tried once and we bolted it back down," Klosterman said, adding that the statue appeared cracked and fragile at the time. He said someone would need a wrench or power tool to remove the bolts.
Klosterman said whoever took it went through a lot of effort maneuvering through all the ongoing construction.
Fencing was put up back in early May, so the closest spot to dump the statue in the river would be somewhere under the bridge, he guessed. Hauling it in the back of a pickup seems unlikely because people would see it hanging out the back end, he said.
The construction crew also noticed at the time of the disappearance that a sticker that read "F*** TRUMP" was left on the pedestal. Klosterman said he didn't notice the sticker anytime prior and believes it was left there after the statue was taken. It's still there as of Wednesday, July 31.
Notifications were sent out by the city Friday, July 26, on social media to make residents aware of the theft and potentially garner some leads.
The news spread fast, and far. Mahoney said he realized the story was aired nationally after he heard from his sister in Idaho.
The 8-foot tall statue is one of about 200 replicas donated by the Boy Scouts of America across the country in the 1950s.
Schildberger said it's constructed of sheet copper. Earlier reports uncovered in The Forum archives stated the replica was made of bronze.
Over the years, the statue was refurbished on several occasions due to relentless vandalism, from painting Lady Liberty's fingernails red to bending her crown and breaking off her arm.
The Fargo Parks District maintained ownership of the statue, according to spokeswoman Katie McCormick, but the care of the historic replica has been a shared partnership with the district and city.
For years the statue's home was on a knoll on the east side of Island Park, looking toward the water like the original. Fargo's replica is 1/19th of the original size.
It was moved to the current site in 1987, and the mayor anticipates her returning there soon.
"Let's see if we can find her," Mahoney said. "Otherwise we're going in the river."