Fairfax County police detectives had a tip they'd find golf clubs, camping equipment and other stolen property inside Michael Star's Herndon apartment.
On Thursday, armed with a search warrant, they went inside to take a look. And there they were: the red golf bag stuffed with Callaway clubs, the Coleman tent and one most unexpected find.
Police said yesterday that there was no mistaking the 5-foot-2-inch tall bikini-clad beauty hidden inside Star's closet, the same brunette statue police had been searching for since May 23, when it was taken from an art show at the Reston Town Center.
A helicopter had hovered overhead and officers had fanned out across the outdoor shopping mall, but there had been no sign of the life-size, ultra-lifelike statue known to creator Marc Sijan as "Legs Folded."
Without any solid leads, Sijan had wondered if the painstakingly detailed $38,000 piece of art would ever be seen again.
That is, until Thursday, when officers entered Star's apartment in the 2300 block of Rolling Fork Circle.
"They weren't looking for the statue, but when they saw it, well, they figured 'this is a little bonus,' " said Fairfax County police officer Bud Walker.
According to court documents, Star, 45, was arrested Wednesday in the pool area of the apartment complex for allegedly huffing paint.
Police said an apartment complex employee was then directed by the complex manager to enter Star's apartment to make sure that his pets were cared for and that the stove was off, according to the search warrant. That's when the employee spotted items she believed to be stolen. Police were contacted.
Star was charged Friday with grand larceny in connection with the theft of "Legs Folded." The statue, crafted from poly-resin, did not fair well during captivity, sustaining cracks and breaks around the arms, investigators told Sijan. The value of the sculpture was in the details. Like Sijan's other works, it was so realistic, perhaps all she was missing was a pulse. Now that value is largely lost, he said.
Yesterday the artist was still puzzling about who'd have the nerve to wander away from a crowded art exhibit with a 40-pound statue.
"It reminds me of going to the Louvre and staring at 'Winged Victory' [of Samothrace], and someone just picks it up and carries it off right in front of everyone's eyes," Sijan said. "It would be so brazen you'd think, 'Well, maybe it's legit.' But who would have the guts to take it off the pedestal and walk down the street?"
According to court records, Star was arrested May 30 and charged with disorderly conduct and assault and battery in connection with an incident two days earlier. He posted $1,000 bond on each count and was released the same day. He was arrested again Wednesday on a drug charge -- for allegedly inhaling the paint -- and concealing or altering the price of merchandise less than $200, which police say occurred Nov. 15.
Star is being held without bail at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.
As for "Legs Folded," she's more evidence than art right now, biding her time in the police department's property room.
Still, Sijan sounded relieved yesterday to know she's eventually coming home. "I hope they treat her well and feed her well," he quipped.
Staff writer Tom Jackman contributed to this report.