Stolen art from California is recovered in Switzerland County: Value set at $500,000

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Officers from the Switzerland County Sheriff’s Department have recovered 90 pieces of art that was stolen from the house of the artist in California, and the recovery is believed to value $500,000.

Detective Richard Lock of the Switzerland County Sheriff’s Department said that around the end of August he received a call from Detective Griffith of the Rancho Cucamonga, California Police Department. The detective told Richard Lock that some of the stolen art collection of artist Michael Aschenbrenner was believed to be in Switzerland County. The theft had occurred in March of this year, and detectives there had been working several leads in the case.

During their investigation, California detectives said that they received a series of emails from a residence here in Switzerland County.

Richard Lock then begin to assist in the investigation, and the officers worked with George Cuttrass, an art collector who had also received emails regarding the pieces of art and their value. While some of the pieces were in Jefferson County and others as far away as Bloomington, it was concluded that most of the collection was in a residence here.

Richard Lock then verified the location, went to the residence, and collected the artwork.

“We had the full cooperation of the home owner in this case,” Richard Lock said. “We don’t believe that the resident had any knowledge of where the artwork came from, and we don’t see filing any criminal charges on our end.”

The name of the resident and the location of the home were not divulged by officers, as the investigation is ongoing.

Richard Lock did say that investigators believe that most of the artwork came to this county from residence in Gallatin County that was occupied by Marta Hewett, who had a studio in Louisville and is now in Cincinnati. Richard Lock said that the pieces came from Marta Hewett to Switzerland County as she was moving from Louisville to Cincinnati, and needed a place to store the pieces, so the Switzerland County resident agreed to store them for her.

Michael Aschenbrenner, upon learning that most of his artwork had been recovered here, flew here earlier this week, arriving in Switzerland County on Tuesday. He spent much of Wednesday morning cataloging the pieces that had been recovered before carefully packing them and loading them onto a rental truck for transport back to California.

After leaving here, he will be traveling to the Chicago area, where he will retrieve some additional pieces.

“Really, this is a recovery effort for us,” Richard Lock said. “From here we’ll let the detectives in California try and figure all of this out. We had full cooperation from everyone involved here, so we’re turning the artwork back over to Michael with the consent of the California officers, and he’ll get everything back to his home.”

The investigation is still ongoing here, and Richard Lock said that if anyone has any information on this artwork, or who may unknowingly have a piece of the art, please call him at the Switzerland County Sheriff’s Department, 427-3636.

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The art of Michael Aschenbrenner is deeply influenced by his time serving his country during the Vietnam War.

Wounded in the war, much of his art portrays images of broken bones, bandaged back together. His glass artwork is meant to serve as a therapy in dealing with his visions and memories of war, and pieces of his art are now found in galleries all over the world.