Stolen inflatable elephant found in ditch, returned to auto dealership

Published 3:39 pm Thursday, October 20, 2011

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

NORTH SHELBY – A pink inflatable elephant stolen last weekend is back home today in front of Edwards Chevrolet on U.S. 280.

“Pinky” was stolen in the early morning hours of Oct. 15 and found four days later in a ditch in Chelsea, an innocent victim of “a high school or college prank gone awry,” said Marty Phillips, the dealership’s general sales manager.

The elephant cost $7,000 and has been on display for about a month. When inflated, Pinky stands 20 feet high and 30 feet long.

But the size failed to deter weekend pranksters, who later returned to the dealership and asked for forgiveness.

“Some good kids did something stupid,” Phillips said.

It started Friday night about 11:30 p.m., when a person disconnected Pinky’s power source. The person left as the elephant deflated then “came back with a posse” about 1 a.m. on Saturday, Phillips said.

“There were a number of them,” Phillips said. “It took four of them to actually load it up and put it in the truck.”

The dealership used TV coverage and social media to bring attention to the theft. The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office used surveillance video from the dealership and surrounding businesses to locate the get-away vehicle and question several suspects, Phillips said.

Apparently feeling the heat, the suspects dumped Pinky in a ditch off Highway 36 in Chelsea, covered the elephant with a blue tarp and left a note apologizing for what they said was a prank.

A passing motorist found Pinky and called the dealership.

At least three of the suspects, including the get-away driver, returned to the dealership to apologize and ask forgiveness.

The dealership isn’t pressing charges, Phillips said.