A former Washington resident sought in connection with the theft from the Smithsonian Institution of an intricately worked $125,000 snuffbox made for the Russian empress Catherine the Great was picked up in Florida by Daytona Beach police after his fingerprints were checked with the FBI.
In addition to being sought in the snuffbox case, the man, William Thomas Ferrell Jr., 22, is also wanted in the District on a warrant charging him with the slaying of Ronald Jerome Jordan last April 24 on Morris Road SE, authorities said. A D.C. police detective said he knew of no connection between the homicide and the theft of the historic snuffbox.
The ornamental box, which glittered with gold and diamonds and was adorned by decorative panels depicting the coronation in 1762 of Catherine as empress of Russia, no longer exists. The FBI said the box, stolen three years ago, was stripped and melted down in 1980 as part of an alleged precious metals fencing operation.
According to the FBI, some of the more than 200 diamonds set into it are all that has been salvaged from the box. It had been at the Smithsonian for 50 years before the theft, which occurred while a building housing the National Collection of Fine Arts was under renovation.
Law enforcement sources indicated that Ferrell apparently worked at one time at the Smithsonian for a firm working there under contract.
Ferrell, who once lived on Pomeroy Road, was using an assumed name when he was arrested Aug. 18 by Daytona Beach police on Florida charges that included theft, the FBI said. He was released on his own recognizance, but after a check of his fingerprints he was rearrested and is now being held in the Volusia, Fla., County jail.