Two of the three men charged in last year’s theft of a Hokie Bird statue from outside the Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center have resolved their cases.
The figure, a representation of Virginia Tech’s mascot sculpted largely out of fragments of mirrored glass by artist Kathy Duncan, stood outside the hotel’s conference center for years, bolted to a concrete pad.
Just before dawn Sept. 25, the statue — roughly 5 feet tall and weighing more than 65 pounds — was broken off at its ankles and hauled away.
A few days later, investigators found it in a wooded area of Albemarle County, near Rockfish Gap Turnpike, about 100 miles from Roanoke.
After the figure’s recovery, Tech announced that the culprits were members of a pledge class of the Sigma Nu fraternity at James Madison University in Harrisonburg. Both JMU and the fraternity aided authorities.
Ultimately, three students were charged with grand larceny and felony property destruction: Anthony Joseph Santore, 20, of Richmond; Bryce Kristian Durbin of Mechanicsville; and Murfee William Flickinger, 20, of Montpelier.
Since then, Santore and Flickinger have pleaded no contest to reduced counts of misdemeanor destruction of property and have seen their larceny charges dropped.
Santore, whose hearing was May 7, and Flickinger, who was in court Tuesday, each received 12 months in suspended jail time. They have until April 1 to complete 50 hours of community service and had to write letters of apology to Hotel Roanoke and the Virginia Tech Foundation. Both men are required to be on good behavior for a year.
The broken statue cannot be repaired, so a new one must be commissioned at a cost of $7,500, prosecutors said. Santore and Flickinger were each required to pay $2,500 in restitution.
Durbin is due in court June 29.
In a summary of evidence, Roanoke assistant prosecutor John McNeil said the theft snowballed from a pledge week exercise in which prospective frat members were simply required to photograph statues of oversized birds.
He said numerous Sigma Nu hopefuls were at the hotel that morning but said evidence indicated that the three men charged had hatched the plan to take the figure back with them, a show of initiative that McNeil said soon angered their pledge supervisors.
Investigators were able to use security video to trace a vehicle’s license plate back to the pledges, and McNeil said police found mirrored pieces of the sculpture outside Santore’s apartment.
All three men charged led police to where they had dumped the statue.
McNeil described the theft as “a college prank” that got out of hand.
“No malice was directed at the Virginia Tech Foundation,” he said at the hearing.
Flickinger made no statement, but defense attorney Jennifer DeGraw told the court he was grateful for the opportunity to be heard and to put the matter behind him.
Judge Onzlee Ware approved Flickinger’s plea agreement and urged him to reflect on the incident and learn from it.
“It’s an opportunity,” Ware told him. “It’s a bump in the road if you don’t make it more than that.”
The statue, titled “What is a Hokie,” was one of 75 that the Blacksburg Partnership economic development group began placing around the region in 2006. Since then, the statues have been a target of occasional theft and vandalism.
Another Hokie Bird that stood outside the Tech Bookstore was stolen in February 2019 and remains missing.