Icon stolen from A.J.’s Mining Camp restaurant - East Valley Tribune: Apache Junction

Icon stolen from A.J.’s Mining Camp restaurant

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Posted: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 12:50 pm | Updated: 3:47 pm, Fri Sep 23, 2011.

One of Apache Junction’s most familiar landmarks has been stolen, and its owner is offering a $500 reward to capture those responsible.

The 9-foot, 200-pound metal standing figure of “Picky Pete,” a gold miner that stood in front of the Mining Camp Restaurant and Trading Post at 6100 E. Mining Camp St., was removed from its stone base sometime between Monday evening and early Tuesday morning, according to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies discovered that someone had forcibly removed the figure, which was depicted as holding a mining pick and bag full of gold. Impressions of Picky Pete could be seen in the ground where it fell once separated from the base.

The figure, which was cut from a 4-by-8-foot plate of steel and hand painted by Steve Leach of Steve Leach Signs, is valued at about $1,500. It was placed in front of the restaurant in May when the eatery known for its family cooked meals was recognized for its historic status of turning 50 years old. The restaurant’s property backs up to Lost Dutchman State Park along Highway 88.

Vinton Fugate, the Mining Camp’s owner, said he’s afraid someone is going to try to sell the metal for scrap, but on the scrap market it would be worth only about $20.

“We think it may be the same thing that is happening with copper, but he could be out there,” Fugate said.

“He was an eye catcher,” is how Fugate described Picky Pete. “He brought us a lot of business. People would pull up and say, ‘Hey, what’s that?’ They’d go up to it and have their picture taken.”

Fugate said he hopes to replace the figure before the seasonal restaurant reopens Nov. 1.

Fugate’s wife Deborah said, “We can’t let this go on, or the people doing this are going to hit the next person.”

Anyone with information about the figure’s whereabouts can call the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office at (520) 866-5208.

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