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[whitespace] Crime of Nature

Residents baffled by theft of stone lions

Willow Glen--Something funny happened on the way to the mailbox. Willow Glen resident Elaine Pittroff saw that her two lions had been taken from their spots on her front porch where they sat and guarded the house. She believes the big cats left their perch during the early morning hours of Feb. 17.

"I went to get the mail, and I did a double-take. Something's not right," she said.

"I had left for work, and Elaine called me at noon," said husband Lyle. "She was still in shock. I hadn't noticed [the missing lions]."

The cats in question are two stone lions, each weighing approximately 250 pounds, which stood guard at the entrance of the Pittroffs' house at the corner of Bird and Willow. The Pittroffs say the lions are big enough for their granddaughter, Brittany Scarcella, 4, to ride. The lions were bolted to the porch, but all that remains now are the planks they sat on. "They must have used a crowbar," said Elaine. "This was well-planned and well-organized. Someone had a big assignment."

The Pittroffs say they were watching a movie the night before and called it a day after the 11 p.m. news. They are surprised at the boldness of the crime, and hope that someone will take note of two lions on the prowl. "It's not as though someone can walk on the street and put the lions under their arm," said Elaine.

Ironically, just outside their bungalow stands a lamp post, which has always made the Pittroffs feel safe. "We have been so pleased with the city because we have great lights," said Elaine. "But under the cloak of city lights, they did their deed."

The Pittroffs have filed a police report but don't have any leads yet. They suspect it was the work of a Rush Week prank by some San Jose State fraternity. Elaine says that 10 years prior to the Pittroffs' move to Willow Glen in 1997, the previous owner of the house fell prey to a similar lionnapping incident. The owner, who had received the stone cats as a gift, found the lions at a fraternity house after they were stolen--also during Rush Week.

In an effort to alert anyone who has seen the lions, the Pittroffs have posted fliers around the SJSU campus. They are offering a monetary reward with no questions asked.

The couple miss their handy directional landmarks, but they have also lost their sense of security. Both Elaine and Lyle say they feel unsettled and violated. "Our granddaughter was sleeping, and fifty feet away people were ripping out our house. That's unnerving," says Lyle

"It's no longer humorous," said Elaine. "There's a Buddhist philosophy that says if something is missing you should do your best to find it through responsible means. When you can't, that means someone needs it more. So let it go. But I don't think I'm there yet."

While the two are making a plea for the return of their missing stone animals, Lyle concedes he has slim hopes for seeing his cats again. "I'm hopeful but not confident. If they're found, great. They were my favorite points of the whole house," he said.

"We just want our big guys back," said Elaine.

The Pittroffs are asking anyone with information on the two lions to call 408. 239.3465.
Michele Leung

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