Of all the likely crimes to rock a small Illinois town, "art theft" may not immediately come to mind. But that's the baffling and frustrating reality that Kankakee, population 27,000, has been dealing with since Dec. 11—or thereabouts. The New York Times reports a plaster sculpture of President Abraham Lincoln's hand has been missing from the Kankakee County Museum since at least then, but it's a crime void of witnesses, suspects, and even a firm timeline. The Times reports that the museum initially hoped it would be a short-lived prank. When that didn't turn out to be the case, the Kankakee Police Department posted a Facebook plea for information and a description of the hand, via the museum curator, as "approximately 'the size of a 8-10 pound ham.'" Its estimated worth is $5,000, though a local historian tells the Times, "There's almost no way to put a value on something like that because there’s no market."
The Daily Journal reports the hand is the work of George Grey Barnard, a "devoted Lincoln fan" born in 1863 who lived in Kankakee for a time and whose plan to create a huge statue of Lincoln was scuttled at the start of the Great Depression. At least 30 of Barnard's works were donated to the local school district in 1936, and the hand, on display since 1991, had been featured in a wing dedicated to Barnard's work—which curators have been thinning out from display, "paranoid" that the thief may strike again. "Just put it in a bag and leave it somewhere," is what museum director Connie Licon has to say to the thief. An editorial in the local paper echoes that: "Just put it in a bag, return to the museum, set it down where someone can easily find it, and head off in the other direction." (New faces have been revealed in the sole "eyewitness painting" of Lincoln's assassination.)