Stolen 'Denis the Menace' statue returning home to California playground

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It has been quite a journey for one infamous troublemaker -- nearly 3,000 miles from a city park in Monterey, California to Broth&rs Scrap Metals in Central Florida.  The scrap yard bought a 3-and-a-half foot bronze Dennis the Menace statue in August, intending to sell it for scrap metal and ship it to China. Little did Broth&rs’ owner Michael Leigh know, the statue was stolen from Monterey’s Dennis the Menace playground back in 2006.

“I had noticed it, I saw it covered up with mud one day when I was walking over there, didn’t give it any thought at all. I’m used to seeing crazy stuff,” Leigh told FOX 35.  It wasn’t until Leigh’s daughter-in-law got curious and researched information about the statue that Leigh found out about the nearly decade-long campaign to get Dennis back. He called Monterey Police immediately.

Dennis the menace cartoonist Hank Ketcham commissioned the statue in 1987 for the playground he created for Monterey. It was long considered “the heart of the playground.” There’s a standing $5,000 reward for its return, and the arrest of whomever stole it.  “I was really excited about it,” Leigh said, “I thought, ‘Man this is great, I’ve found an abducted child and I’m sending him back to his parents.’”

But there may be a catch, as Orlando’s Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children is missing a Dennis the Menace statue of its own. Four of the statues were made originally. One of them ended up on the hospital’s Playworks Playground, but that disappeared too, during renovations in the early 1990s. No one has seen it since.

Hospital officials said they aren’t looking for the statue and aren’t concerned about its whereabouts. While it’s possible that the found Dennis statue somehow came from the hospital’s playground, city officials in Monterey don’t think this is a case of mistaken identity.  A spokesperson told FOX in an email, “We believe this is our statue based on the photos we’ve seen.”  

So now, tarnished but only slightly worse for the wear, Dennis is finally on his way home.  Meanwhile, investigators in Monterey are still working to find out who stole the statue in the first place.  Broth&rs Scrap Metals turned over all the information about who sold them the statue, and police are going to try to trace its journey.  It’s estimated worth is $30,000.