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Art thefts may be related

Art thefts may be related

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Where's the art? Did a thief use a tunnel? And what about the guy who spent more than two hours waiting for mom?

Seven prints and 10 limited-edition canvases were stolen around May 3 from the Repartee Gallery inside Deseret Book's downtown store. All but two pieces were by James Christensen, a popular Orem painter. The loss is estimated at $16,000.

His "pieces increase so much ... just from the popularity," gallery manager Jo Ann Warner said. "A lot of the pieces that were stolen were sold out."

Police are investigating a possible link to thefts at Canyon Gallery and Framing in Kaysville. Those losses total $13,000, and Christensen's art was taken, too.

Warner said a Deseret Book employee on May 3 noticed a man had spent more than two hours near the gallery, which was closed at the time. When questioned by the employee, the man said he was interested in frames but waiting for his mother.

Another employee noticed two men in the basement storage room, where framed art and the canvases are located. "Somebody either knew where my key was or it was someone who had access to the keys to get down here," Warner said of the storage room.

Warner said two short tunnels lead out of the building from the storage area.

"At this point, we don't have any reason to believe (the suspects) used any alleged tunnels," police Sgt. John Beener said.

There's no evidence of a break-in. The gallery is offering a $5,000 reward.

------ Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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