Local artist auctions off stolen and returned guitar; Proceeds go to the local NA chapter | Latest Headlines



Local artist and teacher Jen Otey takes a negative experience and turns it into a positive one. On Sunday March 6, she discovered that her shop, the Rose Cottage School of Art, had been broken into during the night. Only two items were taken: an antique children’s guitar and a guitar she had painted to look like a mermaid.

“We only lost two items and nothing was destroyed or ransacked,” she said on Rose Cottage’s Facebook page.

A few days later, she reported that police found the mermaid guitar and identified a suspect.

Otey thanked everyone involved, from police officers to the businesses that pulled security video footage to help law enforcement. She also thanked her online friends who reposted her Facebook post.

“You all helped pass the tips down to the authorities that really made the magic possible. We are so blessed to live in a caring community that wants to help when it matters most and you ALL… the police and community have prevailed. Because of all of this, I’ve been told that finding and bringing back the mermaid guitar could lead to the recovery and arrest of suspects in other recent theft cases that have happened in the community,” she said.

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The Wytheville Police Department issued an arrest warrant for James Gray Rigney, 50, of Wytheville on Friday. He is wanted for burglary and double theft.

In response to the crime, Otey plans to auction the Mermaid Guitar online to the highest bidder. Proceeds go to the local chapter of Narcotics Anonymous. The eBay auction starts at 8am on Saturday.

“The crime and the trigger for this crime are very sad to me and I want to try to come full circle with a positive outcome,” she said. “People need to understand that we have a drug problem in our small town and that people need help to overcome these problems. If we can help them, I really believe crimes like what we experienced in the studio will unravel.”

Otey restored and repaired the guitar, adding a large bead in place of a missing shell that was lost after the guitar was stolen. She used acrylic paint on the antique Harmony guitar with a large freshwater pearl and recycled paper from saris included on the mermaid’s tail. She said the instrument was painted and ready to use.

“Our small town has an ongoing drug problem, like many small towns these days, and I want to do something that could make a difference,” the artist posted online announcing the auction. “My sincere hope is that one day we will have enough resources to help people who need counseling and support to overcome drug use. If we can stop judging these people and give them the help they need, we can make our city and the world a better, safer and more harmonious and joyful place to live.”

Otey said she installed a security system, new locks and lighting at the school.

“We’re better prepared,” she said. “We hope nothing like this ever happens again and that those involved in the theft also learn the lessons they need to learn.”

To reach reporter Millie Rothrock, call 276-228-6611 ext. 573, or email [email protected]


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