Two members of the Illinois football program have been charged with theft after admitting to taking a deer statue from a park on campus and relocating it to the roof of their building. The two players — junior linebacker James Marchese and sophomore linebacker Drew Murtaugh — were charged with theft between $500 and $10,000. The statue was valued at $5,000 and has successfully been reinstalled in the park.
The Champaign Park District noticed the theft of the sculpture from its base not long after it went missing and went to Facebook pleading for its return. On May 5, Champaign police received a tip that it was on the roof of the apartment complex where the two men lived, just across the street from the park to the west.
Officers went there that day and spoke to several residents, including Marchese and Murtaugh. Marchese told police that he and Murtaugh were walking home April 29 when they saw the statue lying on the ground and took it to the roof of their building. Murtaugh gave the same basic statement, according to a police report.
Marchese played primarily as on special teams for the Illini after joining the program as a walk-on. He was awarded a scholarship at the end of last season.
Murtaugh, meanwhile, has yet to see the field in Champaign.