Men accused of Mariposa museum theft appear in court

FRESNO, Calif.

Edward Rushing, Matthew Campbell, Jonathan Matis and Christopher Sheffield all showed up to court in shackles and plead not guilty to the crime. Sheffield will enter his plea tomorrow.

One friend of the museum told Action News this was like stealing the Mona Lisa from the Louvre.

The historic heist led those four defendants into this historic building for their first day in court.

Christopher Sheffield led the way on the long walk into the Mariposa County Courthouse for four men accused of one of the largest museum robberies in California history.

Edward Rushing covered his face as deputies took him into court wearing the black and white stripes of a county inmate.

Investigators believe he also tried to obscure his identity during the robbery at the California Mining & Mineral Museum two months ago.

They say Rushing and Jonathan Matis dressed like ninjas and used pickaxes to steal as much in gold and gems as possible until an alarm at the Fricot Nugget forced them to run.

Friends of the museum say they want all four suspects locked up for life.

"They do have obvious priors on their record and a couple of them several, all over the state. They look like they're fairly well versed in their trade," Bud Munck, President of the California State Mining & Mineral Museum Association said.

Cameras were not allowed in the court during the proceedings, but the men accused of stealing pieces of history sat in the middle of history, each on a separate wooden chair that's been in this courtroom since it opened in 1854.

They walked out of the courthouse with their own lives now frozen in time, while others are left to assess the damage they're accused of doing.

"It's a real loss to the state of California, really. It's our heritage. It's our mineral collection and so, for generations to come, they're going to be deprived of the minerals that were lost," Ron Iuidice, VP of the California State Mining & Mineral Museum Association said.

Friends of the museum tell me they're still not sure if they'll get any of the stolen items back. They're worried the suspects may have just melted it all down for cash, destroying some fine art and history.

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