An Independence man is to spend seven years in prison for stealing an iconic statue and trying to sell it for scrap last summer.
Randy V. Perez, 30, pleaded guilty Thursday in the theft of the Pioneer Woman statue from the National Frontier Trails Museum in Independence. He was scheduled to be in court on Monday in the case, but chose to plead ahead of that court date.
Perez was one of three people charged in the June 2013 theft of the statue, which was cut from its base outside the museum. The cases against the others, Kelli L. Summers and Jeremy W. Ratliff, both of Independence, are still pending, according to the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office.
Chief trial assistant attorney Michael Hunt prosecuted the case for the county.
The statue, which apparently was smashed to pieces, has never been recovered. It was a life-size, hollow bronze work by Juan Lombardo-Revera and was dedicated in 1990 at the Trails Museum, a few blocks south of the Square. She held a baby in one arm and a bucket in another.
A recycling company in Kansas City rejected an attempt to sell a bucket of bronze pieces, after someone at the company identified what appeared to be an arm among the scraps of metal. The three suspects showed up on a surveillance video, which helped Independence police find and arrest them.
The statue in 1990 was valued at about $35,000, but the thieves stood to profit only $578 from the metal.
The city of Independence and the Friends of the National Frontier Trails Museum want to replace the Pioneer Woman, and another artist has been commissioned to create a similar statue, not a replica.
The expected cost would be $30,000 to $40,000 the city reported in October; the effort is said to be about $10,000 short of its goal at this point.
Increased security at the site would be needed also, officials said.