Talk about the circle of life. Charles McNew is currently cooling his heels in a jail cell after being accused of stealing a jail cell -- a vintage one from the 1800s that was believed to be the last of its kind in existence.
It's not anymore, though.
Here's a look at the cell in question, in a shot provided by the Colorado Springs Police Department:
The cell may not look like anything special, but according to a 2006 article in the Westside Pioneer, it most certainly was. The unit, which weighed approximately five tons, dates to the late 1880s, during a heyday for gold-milling. "They used cells like this as temporary holding tanks for thieves and other unsavory characters before they had other places to put them," Gold Hill Mesa Township LLC's D. Wendall Attig told the Pioneer. The item was identified on a metal plate as a "Pauly Jail" -- a reference to the Pauly Jail Building Company in St. Louis, which still exists. A history page on its website points out that the firm was founded by P.J. Pauly Sr. way back in 1856, and his great-great grandsons run the outfit today.
Despite this fascinating background, the cell was hardly coveted a few years back. The Pioneer reports that neither the local sheriff's office nor the Old Colorado City Historical Society, among other institutions, chose to take it off the hands of Dave Lippincott, who had been displaying it at his Surplus City outlet in the Gold Mesa Hill subdivision. Moreover, a buyer from Minnesota backed out after having trouble moving the damn thing. But in the end, Gold Hill Mesa Township decided to make it part of an artifacts collection put on display throughout the area.
Then, in March, the cell vanished, and now it's gone for good: The CSPD says it was sold for scrap.
Swiping this behemoth was clearly a big job, which helps explain why four people have been busted in regard to this crime: McNew, 27, who's on eight years probation for boosting street-light wiring last year; Joshua Vaughn, 32, serving two years probation for a 2011 burglary that targeted copper wiring; plus Jessica Ramsey, 23, and Kenneth Hanowell, 22.
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At this writing, Ramsey and Hanowell remain at large, but McNew and Vaughn are behind bars on suspicion of class-four-felony theft. And while their cells are no doubt roomier than the one that went missing, they're just as confining.
Look below to see mug shots of McNew, Ramsey and Hanowell (nothing available for Vaughn).
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