Children visiting the public library in Fall River, Massachusetts, this week are being told that Franklin the Turtle is on vacation. “He means a lot to everybody who’s ever met him and held him,” said Dorothy Sorel, a library volunteer who has been feeding Franklin and taking him outside on walks for the past six years. “I just want him back,” Sorel said on Tuesday as she fought back tears. An unidentified man stole Franklin from his tank in the library’s children’s room just before closing time on Saturday.
Police and library staff said the man hid in a corner until staff and patrons left at 5pm.
“He literally just blended in. He made himself nondescript,” said David Mello, the library’s supervisor for children’s services.
A surveillance camera in the library recorded Franklin’s theft. After everyone left the children’s room, the man crouched along the bookshelves, twice looking into a hallway to see if anyone was coming, before he took Franklin from his tank, hid the box turtle underneath his sweatshirt and walked out of the library.
“He was real ninja-esque,” said Mello, who was working on Saturday and said he did not notice the suspect, who had lingered around Franklin’s tank as he pretended to look through children’s books nearby. At one point, surveillance footage shows the man even stroked his chin for a few minutes as he looked directly at the tank, as if trying to figure out how he would get away with the heist.
“His intentions were clear,” Mello said. “This is what he wanted to do, all for a turtle.”
Mayor William Flanagan declared the man who stole Franklin to be the “Grinch of the city.”
“It’s shameful that a grown man would steal a pet turtle from the children’s room of the Fall River Public Library,” Flanagan said. “This heinous crime really broke the hearts of the children that loved Franklin.
I urge anyone who knows or recognizes the individual to contact the FRPD, and I strongly urge this individual to return Franklin unharmed to the Fall River Public Library and to turn himself in,” Flanagan added.
Franklin, who was donated to the library by a young boy more than 13 years ago, is estimated to be 14 or 15 years old, and police said he is valued at about $80. But for the library’s staff, volunteers and especially the children who visited him, Franklin was an invaluable member of the community.