Stolen gun surfaces in Reelsville after 38 years and 600 miles

Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Upon completion of a Putnam County Sheriff's Department investigation, this High Standard Double Nine revolver will be sent back to Genesee County, N.Y. One of more than 30 guns stolen from a Stafford, N.Y., store in a June 1974 burglary, the .22 caliber pistol was recovered by police Monday morning in Reelsville. Banner Graphic/JARED JERNAGAN

Google will tell you it takes about 10 hours to travel from Stafford, N.Y., to Reelsville, Ind.

The circuitous journey of a stolen handgun took 38 years from Stafford to Reelsville. Apparently blue steel doesn't stick to the interstate.

Putnam County Sheriff's deputies made the surprising discovery when they responded to a call of a man recklessly discharging a firearm at a home on Apple Blossom Drive in Reelsville early Monday morning.

Concerned about the possibility of a standoff, Deputies T.J. Smith, Phillip Troyer and Matt Biggs; Cloverdale Deputy Marshal Charlie Hallam and two Indiana State Police troopers responded to the scene.

The incident ended peacefully, however, with the individual surrendering without incident.

When Troyer ran the scratched serial number of the gun with Putnam County Dispatch, he discovered, not surprisingly, it was stolen. The shocking part, though, was the when and where of the theft.

The High Standard Double Nine .22 caliber revolver was stolen from a store in Stafford, N.Y., in 1974.

"I wasn't even born yet," Smith commented.

On June 16 or 17, 1974, more than 30 handguns and several boxes of ammunition were stolen from the Stafford Trading Post. The newly-discovered revolver was among them.

The storeowners told Genesee County Sheriff's deputies they suspected a group of carnival workers of the crime.

The nomadic nature of the carnival business could explain how the firearm crossed at least four states and approximately 600 miles.

What cannot be explained, however, is where the gun has been since then, what it's been used for and how many times it has changed hands.

A sheriff's department detective commented on how many fortunate souls have likely possessed the gun and never had the police trace its origin.

The most recent owner advised Smith he had received the gun as a birthday gift, but conveniently could not remember from whom.

Even with the name of the last owner, police tracing the gun's path back 38 years and heaven-knows-how-many owners seems unlikely.

The next step for the gun is a likely trip back to western New York. Smith spoke with Genesee County Chief Deputy J.E. Brewster, who said to send the gun to his department once the local investigation is complete.

From there, the next step will be to either return to gun to the original owners (if they are still in business or even still alive) or to give it to the insurance company if a claim was made.

In the case of the latter, the gun will likely be sold in a sheriff's sale.

Without knowing the exact year of the gun, it is hard to speculate what the Double Nine might now be worth. Hamden, Conn.-based High Standard produced the revolver between 1958 and 1984.

At the time of its theft, the revolver was valued at $150.

"One hundred fifty dollars was a lot of money back then," Smith said.

Indeed, adjusting for inflation, $150 in 1974 has the same buying power as $697.07 in 2012.

Regardless of its shadowy past, the gun appears to be well taken care of and in good working condition.

If it goes to sheriff's sale, it will likely be a steal for some lucky buyer... You'll have to excuse the expression this time.

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  • Neat story

    -- Posted by Apollo13 on Wed, Aug 29, 2012, at 9:17 AM
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