Missing nutcracker returned to village

RETURNED — Jerry Barilla, president of Historic Fort Steuben, points to one of two areas where paint was scraped from the Starman nutcracker when it was taken from the Nutcracker Village on Saturday. Barilla said he is thankful the nutcracker was returned by the pair who face charges of theft in Steubenville Municipal Court in connection with its disappearance. -- Warren Scott

STEUBENVILLE — The Starman nutcracker inspired by the late rock singer David Bowie has returned to the Nutcracker Village at Historic Fort Steuben after taking a short trip out of Steubenville Saturday.

Jerry Barilla, president of Historic Fort Steuben, said the 6-foot-tall figure is back in its former position near the fort’s fountain, with some paint scratched from its crown and one leg, but he’s thankful it wasn’t more severely damaged and most of all, that it was returned.

The nutcracker was found missing early Saturday by Patrick McLaughlin, a volunteer, and video footage from a nearby surveillance camera showed a woman dragging it to a truck that soon after crossed the Market Street Bridge.

Barilla said he’s thankful the pair who were charged with its theft chose to return it — instead of disposing it somewhere — and turn themselves in.

Municipal Judge John J. Mascio on Monday set preliminary hearings for Dec. 15 for Mycal P. Morin, 21, of 415 South 11th St., Weirton, and Alexis Lynch, 20, of 120 Clover Lane, Colliers.

He noted the pair face up to 12 months in jail and a fine not to exceed $2,500 if found guilty of felony theft.

City Manager James Mavromatis said the two appear to be sorry for their actions, but the offense is a serious one in light of the nutcracker’s value, which court records put at $3,000.

Barilla and Mark Nelson, whose family-run business produces the nutcrackers, said the two should face some punishment; however, city officials expressed some compassion because the nutcracker was returned.

“I feel it wasn’t stolen just from me and my family and business, but from the entire community because it (the Nutcracker Village) is a community project,” Nelson said.

“They (Morin and Lynch) appear to be very remorseful and expressed that, but it was a theft, and now it’s really in the hands of the court to determine what’s going to happen,” he said.

“We’re grateful these young people did return (it) and hope the court will take that into consideration,” said Nelson.

Mascio has ordered the two not to go near the Nutcracker Village until the case is resolved. But Barilla said he would be open to having them perform community service there as restitution.

Since the nutcracker was returned, its feet, and the feet of up to 100 others displayed near the fort, have been screwed to the heavy stone pads on which they stand.

Barilla said despite the incident, plans call for the Nutcracker Village to remain open each day through Jan. 7.

“At this time of the year, we feel there’s a lot of good will and trust and we would like to continue on that path,” he said.