More Arrests for Stealing Ave Maria Sign Letters

Published on Saturday, 17 January 2015 22:50

Three more Ave Maria University students were arrested Friday for stealing large metal letters from the Ave Maria entrance sign last month. A fourth student was arrested in December in the same incident.

Those arrested Friday are Andrew Jamal Wilson, Braelyn William Rhodes and Ralph Allen Olisma, all 18 years old. They were booked on felony charges of grand theft, but may well wind up facing lesser charges because the student arrested in December, Michael John Tracy, was also charged originally with felony grand theft but the State Attorney's office decided Jan. 15 not to proceed with those charges and refiled the charge against him as criminal mischief, a misdemeanor.

The entrance signs have large metal letters mounted on stone walls and letters began disappearing from both town entrances – the main town entrance on Oil Well Rd. and the entrance on Camp Keais Rd. -- early in December. All letters eventually were stolen from two signs at the Camp Keais Rd. entrance along with several more at the main entrance, where expensive wiring used to light the letters was also damaged. As a result of the continuing thefts, Ave Maria developers set up a security camera at the front entrance and police say those arrested were seen taking the letters.

AMU President Jim Towey said in a statement to NBC-2 News in Fort Myers that the university has been conducting an investigation for several weeks and "after our investigation is completed we will take appropriate disciplinary action against any students responsible for such thefts."

Police also are investigating another incident involving two letters that were ripped from the main entrance sign around midnight Monday, Jan. 12. A resident saw the theft in progress, called the Sheriff's Office, and a suspect was questioned that night. The investigation into that incident is continuing.

Previous story, Dec. 22: AMU Student Arrested for Theft of Letters from Ave Maria Sign