Investigators looking for Mariposa museum thieves

FRESNO, Calif.

The robbery happened Friday evening.

Those same suspects might be connected to a truck that was stolen from a local grocery store here in Mariposa. While detectives are working to find surveillance video the Mariposa community is working to save the museum for a second time.

It's the crime that's got everyone talking from the shops downtown to the nearby market.

In fact, some say the suspects who held up the Mining and Mineral Museum started their spree with 21-year-old Eliudi Spurlin's pickup.

He found out about the break-in-when detectives came to the store armed with questions.

"My vehicle was found right across the street in the bushes running with the doors open and everything and that was the only evidence they had at the time," Spurlin said.

Detectives say they're looking for a number of suspects who made verbal threats to employees inside the museum and took off with artifacts worth at least $2 million.

The local non-profit that works to support the museum says 3 cases filled with dozens of historic and special gold pieces-were smashed.

"It was a terrible blow, and it's a great loss.. We don't know exactly what's gone but suspect a substantial amount of gold is missing," Ron Iudice of the California State Mining and Mineral Museum Association said.

It's just the latest struggle for the 130 year old museum. It was just recently granted a reprieve - a 2 year stay - from state budget cuts which would have forced it to close.

"It's sad for me, it's sad for the community a lot of us volunteered there have been there more than 20 years," Iudice said.

Iudice says the suspects did not get away with a nearly 14 pound historic gold nugget but they tried. Neighbors say they've always worried about security surrounding the historic building.

"The Mining and Mineral Museum was like a sitting duck, waiting for something to happen, for a break in or whatever," Joy Shultz of Mariposa said.

Detectives say they're working to find pictures to alert the public about what artifacts may have been taken and the association is simply hoping they'll be recovered in their natural state.

"I would imagine every mineral collector is aware of what's happening I don't believe it'd be real easy to sell in this country at this point," Iudice said.

Similar historic artifacts were stolen from other counties in California within the last year or so. Detectives haven't ruled out the possibility of a connection.

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