Man arrested: Charged in connection with stealing art from a Charleston library

Man arrested: Charged in connection with stealing art from downtown library
Published: Aug. 3, 2013 at 3:08 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Police arrest a man in connection with stealing seven paintings worth more than $5,000 dollars from the Saul Alexander art gallery in the Charleston Public Library. Police say 57-year-old Robert Wayne Russell took the paintings over a three day period before police arrested him Friday.

Artist Alizey Khan was shocked when a thief snatched three of her paintings and then, according to police, came back for a fourth.

"They came back a second time which really makes me think that they were targeting my work," said Khan.

Khan spent a total of 30 hours creating her masterpieces, hoping to one day attract a buyer, not a thief.

"I'm still slightly flattered that they obviously like my work enough to risk going to jail for it," said Khan.

Police said they got a photograph of Russell from surveillance video from the library, then showed it at businesses on Reid street. A business owner identified Russell as the man who sold them three of the stolen paintings.

Even before the arrest, library officials said they were almost certain the man in the video was the thief.

"Well I think if you see the video, you'll see that he was in the gallery both times that the pieces were missing shortly afterwards," said Doug Henderson, executive director of the Charleston County Public Library. "He was downstairs in the garage and he stashed his bag behind a trash can."

The gallery is temporarily closed until the library can find a way to prevent such a theft from happening again.

Sherry Browne's painting was also one of the seven stolen from library. She hopes when the gallery reopens, the paintings will be more secure.

"Somehow make the pieces stay on the wall," said Browne. "Tie them up. Screw them down."

Charleston police said they aren't sure which artist the three paints they recovered belong to. They are still working on trying to get back the other four.

Russell has been charged with grand larceny. He will have a bond hearing Saturday morning. According to court records Russell was just arrested on July 9th for shoplifting. He had gotten out of jail on a $10,000 dollar personal recognizance bond for that charge.