BILOXI - The city's 17-foot Golden Fisherman statue, or what's left of him, has been stashed in a storage unit until he gets his day in court.
"They've got him under lock and key and I haven't had a chance to get out there and look at him," Mayor A.J. Holloway said Wednesday afternoon. "I understand he's pretty beat up, though. I've seen pictures. He doesn't look too good. His face is gone and he's in about six or seven pieces. We'll just have to evaluate the situation and see what can be done."
The statue's restoration, if one is possible, will have to wait.
The mutilated fisherman is evidence against the man charged with felony theft, 37-year-old Herman Allen Hicks of Semmes, Ala. He will be extradited to Biloxi from Mobile County, where the dismembered fisherman's parts were found Tuesday in a creek and several miles away in overgrown weeds on a vacant lot.
Biloxians anxious to get back a piece of their heritage can thank a tipster, who spied the fisherman after news stories ran about his disappearance, and three Mobile County sheriff's officers: Detective Sgt. Shane Stringer, and Detectives David McLeod and Phillip Mayo.
"I think they called and talked to Biloxi and realized what they were dealing with," said Mobile County Sheriff's Capt. Bruce Lee. "They stayed out and put in an extra effort. When they got started on this, they had already put in a 10-hour day."
The fisherman disappeared over the weekend. The axiom that no one appreciates you until you're gone certainly proved true in this case.
Many disliked the looks of the gangly statue, whose outstretched arms were casting a net. He was booted from his downtown location to the eastern waterfront in 2002.
Even there, he seemed out of place to some. One resident e-mailed the Sun Herald this observation Wednesday: "It IS ugly and really had no place downtown; then, when they put it across from the Isle of Capri (casino), one had to wonder whether or not the thing was casting the net toward the water OR toward the slot machines!"
The fisherman's shiny gold exterior attracted Hicks, law enforcement officers believe. Nobody could figure out how anyone took the fisherman without detection, but it turns out Hicks owns a trailer with a 3-ton boom, said Biloxi Police Capt. Darrin Peterson.
They think Hicks had cut off the fisherman's arms, legs and face to sell for scrap. But his alloy armature was actually worthless.
When the missing statue hit the news in Mobile, police believe Hicks was forced to ditch his false treasure.
Biloxi police hurried to Mobile on Tuesday afternoon, where the fisherman parts were found within three hours of the tipster's report. Everyone was happy Wednesday to have the fisherman home, albeit in pieces.
"I couldn't quite figure out all the fuss," Mobile's Capt. Lee said, "but there's no accounting for taste."