UI football players charged with theft for allegedly stealing park statue

UI football players charged with theft for allegedly stealing park statue

URBANA — Two University of Illinois football-player roommates who admitted they relocated a steel sculpture from a Champaign park to their rooftop have been charged with theft.

James Marchese, 21, and Drew Murtaugh, 20, both of the 500 block of South Second Street, appeared Friday in Champaign County Circuit Court after having earlier been given notices to appear.

Each man was charged with a single count of theft between $500 and $10,000 for allegedly stealing a deer sculpture titled "Startled" from Scott Park in the 200 block of East Springfield Avenue on April 29.

If convicted, they face penalties ranging from probation to two to five years in prison.

The Champaign Park District noticed the theft of the sculpture from its base not long after it went missing and went to Facebook pleading for its return.

On May 5, Champaign police received a tip that it was on the roof of the apartment complex where the two men lived, just across the street from the park to the west.

Officers went there that day and spoke to several residents, including Marchese and Murtaugh.

Marchese told police that he and Murtaugh were walking home April 29 when they saw the statue lying on the ground and took it to the roof of their building. Murtaugh gave the same basic statement, according to a police report.

Park District Director Joe DeLuce said the donated sculpture, valued at $5,000, has since been reinstalled in the park.

"We had to have the artist come and do some work on it. We think we got it worked out to where it would be a lot harder for anyone to take it out again," he said.

DeLuce said the artist plans to bill the district for the cost of his time and materials to put the deer back securely. DeLuce said he doesn't know what that cost is but will forward it to the state's attorney in hopes of getting restitution.

Marchese and Murtaugh appeared with an attorney Friday and asked Judge John Kennedy for a probable-cause hearing. They are due back in court June 12.

Kent Brown, UI director of sports information, said head football coach Lovie Smith is aware of the criminal charges against the pair but no action regarding their positions on the team has been taken.