By Tim Eberly
As quietly as it left, the high-priced drawing that was stolen from the Clack Museum has been returned. Havre police say that adds to the assumption that William Standing's pen-and-ink drawing was stolen by someone associated with the museum, located inside the Heritage Center.
The artwork, appraised at a minimum of $6,800, was first noticed missing by the museum's gift shop employee on Sept. 3. That employee, Lou Ann Nault, reported the drawing's puzzling return shortly after 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon after she discovered it hanging in a back display room among 25 other pieces of art in the William Standing collection.
"I think that I rattled enough trees over there and somebody decided to return it before they got caught," said police Sgt. George Tate, who interviewed eight people involved with the museum during the painting's month-long sabbatical. "But I interviewed a lot of people, so I can't say specifically who would have taken it. But I guess the purpose was served."
"I don't know exactly when" the drawing was returned, said Lou Lucke, president of the Hill County Museum Board. "If it was an inside job, apparently things got a little too hot."
After Nault notified the police, Lucke took a count of Standing's collection, which totals 26 pieces. Next, Lucke and Keith Lokensgard, chairman of the Clack Foundation Board, removed Standing's collection at noon Tuesday with the intent of returning the artwork to its owners in Washington state. The owners wish to remain anonymous.
"They were on loan from the family and I'm going to return them because the family would like them back," Lokensgard said Tuesday afternoon.
Most valuable among Standing's collection, the drawing features a couple in a wagon near a creek with horses and dogs in the foreground.
The museum has been equipped with a state-of-the-art motion detector, Focus 2000 Quantum, since July 1997.