In March 2012, the ritzy San Diego neighborhood of La Jolla was rocked by a saddening transgression that had nothing to do with Mitt Romney’s controversial home demolition/expansion project: Somebody lifted the Lorax away.

Or, rather, somebody stole a 200-pound bronze statue of the Lorax from the La Jolla home of Audrey Geisel, widow of Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel, and then rolled it down a nearby ravine. It was there, hidden under a bush, that the titular character from the classic eco-parable rested until he was discovered by local authorities in August of the following year.

While pranks involving heisted lawn statuary, garden gnomes in particular, aren’t uncommon, this heartless crime was uncanny for anyone familiar with the text of Dr. Seuss’ 1971 story, particularly when you consider that the winding road leading up to the Geisel home is "the Street of the Lifted Lorax." Even more bizarre is that San Diego authorities, following several false leads, interviews with the neighbors, and a round of polygraph tests, could not locate the statue or the person(s) responsible for pilfering it. 

And so, after a fruitless two-month investigation, the Orange Alert was called off and the case of the lifted Lorax was inactivated by Capt. Brian Ahearn who, speaking to the Wall Street Journal, explained that “we decided that the statue had been melted down for the metal,” although “the Lorax never left our collective memory.”

If anything, the San Diego detectives assigned to the case were certain that the Lorax didn’t just lift himself away (by the seat of his pants). The 2-foot-tall statue of the tree-defending mustachioed mossball — created by Geisel’s stepdaughter, the sculptor Lark Grey Dimond-Cates — lived a content life in the Geisel garden, shaded by a mighty Truffula pine tree and enjoying sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. He was treated to regular sponge baths by a caretaker and adorned with a festive red bow during the holiday season. "For 10 years, the Lorax was very happy on the point," Dimond-Cates tells the Journal. “He meant the world to my mother.” Like an identical statue created by Dimond-Cates that's on public display at the Dr. Seuss Memorial Sculpture Garden in Springfield, Mass., the missing Lorax wears an expression on his face as if he had just watched Miley Cyrus' 2013 MTV VMAs performance for the first time.

Fast-forward to August 2013 when, in a land far away from where the Grickle-grass grows called Bozeman, Mont., a “a clean-cut, 22-year-old in a Hawaiian T-shirt and flip-flops” admitted to a most heinous crime: snatching the Lorax away from Audrey Geisel's property the previous year. Although the admission initially confused Bozeman authorities, who thought the man was referring to the Lorax movie, the unnamed Lorax lifter provided Bozeman authorities with further details. It’s unclear, however, why he admitted to the crime in Montana:

The man, who was from La Jolla, explained that in a drunken stupor on his 21st birthday, it was he who had lifted the Lorax. He hoisted the statue over a chain-link fence, dragged it to his car and put it in his trunk. But overcome by guilt moments later, he rolled the Lorax down a ravine less than a mile from the Geisel house.
And so, the search for the hijacked Lorax commenced. Several days later, with the aid of Google Earth, rappelling rope, and lots of old-fashioned scouring, the Lorax was at long last recovered by crackerjack San Diego detectives Gregg Goodman and Meryl Bernstein. The "shortish" and "oldish" creature was given a bath before being promptly returned to Audrey Geisel who, after the 17-month ordeal, ultimately decided not to press charges against the drunk dude who snuck onto her property one evening and lifted the Lorax away. The Lorax now lives in a different, undisclosed part of Geisel’s property under the watchful eye of a security camera and atop a stump with a plaque that, of course, reads “Unless.”

Via [WSJ]

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