"We can't determine if stuff is stolen or not," Zeeman said. "We can only assume, but we can't prove it. I can't sit there and accuse a customer of stealing stuff."

But he said certain items "definitely raise a red flag." For example, a bronze monkey.

Zeeman said of the stolen statues, "They were not your ordinary scrap."

Oppenheimer said that while touring San Francisco in 2009, he and his wife walked by the store with the monkey statues "20 times" before deciding to buy them.

"We are not spontaneous," he said. "But we liked them and decided we had to have them."

The couple bolted them to a bench and decorated them in holiday themes: a witch, Count Dracula and a monster for Halloween, for example, complete with gravestones. The bench is in a small gravel garden in front of the house but secluded from the street.

Oppenheimer said he and his wife talked about the possibility that the statues could become targets for thieves, but "we didn't think something would happen to them. We didn't think anybody would want them."

This week, the bench remains empty, with all three monkey statues out for repair. Oppenheimer said the two that were taken were ripped from the bolts, and the thieves tried to take the third, See No Evil, damaging the bottom.

Leaving that one behind didn't matter much. "That monkey couldn't see anything anyway," Oppenheimer said jokingly. "He can't be a witness."

peter.hermann@baltsun.com

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