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Former Professor Charged In Brigham Young Art Thefts

May 21, 1987

PROVO, Utah (AP) _ A former curator at Brigham Young University was charged Wednesday with unlawful dealing in school property after an investigation into the disappearance of more than 1,000 art works worth $2 million.

Wes Burnside, who had been the school’s acquisitions director for more than 10 years until he left the university in 1983, was charged with unlawful dealing with property by a fiduciary, a misdemeanor, said Deputy Utah County Attorney Charlene Barlow.

She and Utah County Attorney Steve Killpack declined to elaborate on the charge, but said it stemmed from a number of allegedly unauthorized transactions of art works taken from the university May 21, 1980.

Burnside declined to comment when contacted by telephone late Wednesday.

A seven-year statute of limitations in the case would have run out Thursday, said university spokesman Paul Richards.

Police have been probing the disappearance of the missing art works, part of the university’s 12,000-piece collection, since August.

Killpack said Burnside was one of more than a dozen people being investigated, but that his alleged involvement was only a part of the overall loss of the pieces, which appeared to have been misplaced or taken under a variety of circumstances.

″It’s not a classical case of theft, of someone physically taking an art piece off the wall,″ he said.

University officials have said that most of the missing pieces are thought to have left the collection sometime between 1972 and 1978, which would make it impossible to prosecute under the seven-year limit.

The university has renewed its offer of amnesty from criminal and civil action to people who return missing art works. A month-long amnesty concluded May 1, but only a dozen pieces were returned.

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