An Independence man has pleaded guilty to his role in the theft of the Pioneer Woman statue from the National Frontier Trails Museum in June 2013.
Jeremy W. Ratliff, 37, of Independence, pleaded guilty in April to one count of felony stealing of an item valued at $500 to $25,000. Jackson County Prosecutors Office spokesperson Michael Mansur said Ratliff is scheduled to be sentenced on June 13.
Ratliff’s plea means two of three alleged to be responsible for the theft of the bronze statue valued at $75,000 have pleaded guilty. Randy V. Perez, 30, also of Independence, earlier pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years in prison.
The third defendant, Kelli L. Summers, 34, also of Independence, has not pleaded yet but is scheduled for a court appearance on Monday.
The statue was a beloved part of the Trails Museum. It was paid for through community fundraising and was installed when the museum opened in 1990. It cost $35,000 then, and police put the value at $75,000 at the time of the theft. The hollow, bronze 6-foot statue – a woman holding a baby in one arm and a pail in the other hand – weighed 1,000 pounds. Part of it, the clothing, had a blue hue to it, and that helped police piece together what happened.
On the day of the theft, Ratliff and Perez tried to sell the bronze at 12th Street Recycling in Kansas City but workers there refused to buy it because they noticed a blue tint and noticed that one part resembled a hand and fingers. The 12th Street manager at the time said the bronze would have brought $578 as scrap.
Two days later, staff at the museum noticed the statue was missing. Police emailed area recyclers, and 12th Street Recycling contacted them, told them what happened and turned over a video of the attempted sale.
Ratliff and Summers were arrested later that day. Perez was taken into custody at a later date.