-By Seth Daniel
The dank garage on Yeamans Street was littered with beer and soda cans and various vestiges from years past – now in storage and long forgotten.
Revere Police Det. Doug Zingali cut the lock on the front of the little storage garage, and entered into the lair late Sunday afternoon.
He shined a flashlight into the back of the garage; into an area that looked liked work space, as there was a reciprocating saw and several other tools strewn around a recycling container.
Staring back at him from inside of that recycling container was the dismembered head of the little girl that police have been hunting down for the past month.
Next to her head lay one of her little feet.
Most figured they’d never see the little girl again, but police kept on the case, and acting on several anonymous tips, they recovered the popular bronze, little girl statue that used to lay prone in front of the Revere Public Library reading a book.
The beloved statue – the symbol of the City’s library for more than 10 years – had been miraculously found.
The bad news was that she was in thousands of pieces.
Here head and feet were the only things left intact, and they were the only way that police were able to positively identify the stolen statue.
The bronze statue has been a favorite of children and adults who frequent the library since it was placed on a granite slab in front of the building 10 years ago. The $5,000 statue was placed there to honor the building’s 100-year anniversary.
It quickly became the symbol of the institution, being on the top of its stationery and its website.
That is, the statue was the symbol until it was stolen from its very visible home in late April.
It was an unbelievable crime that infuriated most everyone who heard of it, and now police have the man who they believe is responsible.
Shortly after locating the statue in the garage of 24 Yeamans St., police located the suspect on Reservoir Avenue.
Officers arrested Michael Vanvalkenberg, 46, as he walked on Reservoir Avenue. He was found with illegal drugs on his person.
Vanvalkenberg confessed to police that he stole the statue and planned to sell it for scrap. He had cut it up into numerous pieces with his saw and hoped to take those pieces to a scrap metal dealer.
However, after reading about the theft in the newspaper, he told police that he put the brakes on his plan – figuring that it was in the spotlight too much to be accepted by any dealer.
Much of Vanvalkenberg’s story, however, does not exactly gel for police.
For starters, he told officers that when stealing the statue, he simply pried it off the granite pad and put it on his back. He then, allegedly, rode his bicycle back to Yeamans Street with the statue on his back.
“It could be possible I suppose, but it doesn’t sound feasible to us,” said Revere Police Capt. Michael Murphy.
Secondly, when asked what he did with the body of the statue (which is still missing), he told officers that he cut it into small pieces and threw it into a body of water.
“Obviously investigators are skeptical about that aspect of the case, believing that the defendant most probably sold off pieces of the statue as he cut it up,” read a press release issued by the department on Monday.
Interim Library Director Mark Ferrante said it was bittersweet news because the statue is destroyed, but also surprising in that police found any of it.
“Unfortunately it was bad news in that the statue is gone, but at least we have closure now,” said Ferrante on Monday. “I will be working with the trustees and another organization that saw the story, took it to heart and wanted to help us with some replacement costs. So, we’ll be trying to replace her with some library funds, that organization’s help and some donations from the public as well.”
Ferrante said that he wanted to give the police complete credit for working the investigation thoroughly and with all seriousness.
“We want to give a big thank you to the police,” he said. “They followed this through to the end.”
In a side note, a psychic that ran a program at the library late last month gave Ferrante her professional psychic opinion, and it actually turned out to be right.
“She was 100 percent correct,” he said with a laugh. “She said it was close by, but taken by a person unknown to the library. That was exactly the case as it turns out.”
Vanvalkenberg has been charged with larceny of property over $250, vandalizing a religious or educational building, malicious destruction of property over $250 and illegal possession of a Class B drug subsequent offense.