Gnome 'liberators' charged
College students accused of theft of lawn statues from Newark seniors

By Bennett J. Loudon
Democrat and Chronicle

NEWARK (Tuesday, December 25, 2001) -- Two 18-year-old college students have been accused of stealing garden gnomes from elderly residents of this Wayne County village.

James Bialek Jr. and Peter Chambers were charged Friday with fifth- degree criminal possession of stolen property, said Newark police Sgt. Thomas Smith.

Fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property refers to stolen property worth less than $1,000.

Smith said the value of the property was probably closer to a few hundred dollars.

Chambers is the son of Newark Village Justice Bruce Chambers.

Bialek could not be reached by telephone. Peter Chambers declined to comment.

Smith said the pair is accused of leading a group of recent Newark High School graduates who called themselves the Garden Gnome Liberation Front.

The other teens cooperated with authorities and were not charged, Smith said.

Garden gnomes were snatched from the lawns of about six homes in the village last summer.

Liberation Front members left behind mysterious calling cards.

Later, 24 stolen ceramic, plastic and concrete figurines were found posed in various spots around a local baseball field as if they were playing baseball.

The Liberation Front members even established a Web site. In August, members announced on the site that they would stop the gnome thefts and focus on starting other local chapters.

The Web site was key in solving the crime, Smith said. Armed with a subpoena, police were able to trace the site, posted with the help of a Yahoo search engine service, to their suspects, Smith said.

Although some residents laughed it all off as a youthful prank, others took the thefts very seriously.

"I'd hate to see those kids go to jail, but I do think they need a good slap on the hand," said 74-year-old victim Jessie Rice. "They did wrong. People have a right to put things in their yard without worrying about kids stealing them or smashing them."

"We treated this the same way we would treat anybody else that reported a crime, and the victims were very adamant on arrest," said Smith.

"I'm sure there's controversy on it. We tried very hard to treat it exactly the same way we would any other case," Smith said.

"It was not a priority. This has been going on since July. We had this case put together since September, but these kids were away at school and we waited until they were home and called their parents and said, 'Hey, this is the situation, bring them on in and get it squared away,' and they did," Smith said.

Chambers and Bialek are due to appear in Newark Village Court on Thursday.

see also

"Good cacophonists don't brag about activities on traceable websites, and that, my friends, is the gist!"
-- Randy the Helpful Pineapple


Couple's concrete pigs stolen; thieves demanding ransom

The (Gallatin) News Examiner

GALLATIN Did "the big bad wolf" kidnap Mary and Bobby Romines' swine?

That's what police here are investigating.

On Tuesday, the Romineses received a ransom letter that was signed "the big bad wolf."

"They think they have me buffaloed, but now I'm mad," Mary Romines said of the "pignappers."

"They may think it's funny, but they're going to be charged with theft."

Police Chief John Tisdale said once his department catches the kidnapper, the responsible person will be charged.

Two concrete porkers, each about 1 foot tall, were taken from the Romineses' yard sometime between June 26 and the early morning hours of June 27, according to police records.

The first ransom note demanded two ears of corn and one ripe mango, said police spokeswoman Kate Novitsky.

Mary Romines found the ransom note tacked to the front gate of their home in A and L Trailer Park. Her husband, Bobby Romines, called police.

The note requested that Mary Romines deliver the ransom at the front gate of the mobile home park.

Mary Romines just wants the pigs returned unharmed, she said.

The pig statues were taken from her front yard, around a birdbath and beneath an arch surrounded by other cement swine brethren and chickens.

The chickens were moved but not stolen.

"The other pigs were dusted with negative results," said a Gallatin police report.

"The (ransom) letter will be sent to T.B.I. for processing for (fingerprint) lifts," the report states.

One pig is presumably male, sporting blue overalls, while the other is presumably female, decked out in a pink dress.

The pigs are valued at $10 each.

On Monday, the Romineses received a cooked pork chop with a note that said, "cooked the pig."

Tuesday night, the "pignappers" left the Romineses another letter, this time attached to a bag of pork rinds asking if she was scared. The letter demanded a potato, and the note was signed from "the big bad wolf."

"Pigs can be replaced," said Mary Romines.

"It's the letters that are unnerving."

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