WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A ceramic clown that went missing from a closed Wichita amusement park more than a decade ago has been found at the home of a sex offender who once worked at the park and two decades ago helped restore the clown.
The return of Louie the Clown, the mascot of the Joyland amusement park, was announced during a media briefing Thursday.
Wichita police say officers found the clown statue Tuesday at a home of 39-year-old Damian Mayes, who is serving a prison sentence for a 2010 conviction for aggravated indecent liberties with a child and aggravated criminal sodomy.
Mayes built and repaired organs at the park before he was charged.
Louie disappeared from the Joyland property in 2005 or 2006, but it wasn't reported stolen until 2010.
Police say that the nearly 50-year-old clown is worth about $10,000.
Wichita police Detective Matt Lang said that he has an appointment to meet with the Sedgwick County district attorney about the case and that Mayes and another suspect may face charges.
Lang called the discovery of the clown "quite a shock" and said a phone tip led to its discovery.
"Social media and a lot of interest, not only in Joyland but the clown in particular, kind of kept it alive," Lang said of the case.
Mayes' longstanding fascination with the clown was detailed in a March 1994 article in The Wichita Eagle, which described Mayes' three-year effort at that time to maintain and rebuild the artificial clown and the automatic organ.
"He'll be scaring the kids even more this summer because he's a lot more lifelike," the newspaper quoted Mayes as saying at that time, when he was a high school student. "He's got new hands, which can rest between the songs instead of keeping on playing, like he used to. They're made out of plastic, and they're so real it freaked me out. I think it's also the pointy style of makeup that he wears. It's scarier than the more rounded kind of makeup."
Mayes added that he "really liked Louie when I was little."