2 Illinois players accused of stealing deer sculpture from park

Jimmy Marchese (41) is one of two Illinois players who have been charged with theft. (AP Photo/Bradley Leeb)

Two Illinois football players have been charged with theft for a very silly reason.

According to the Champaign News-Gazette, James Marchese and Drew Murtaugh admitted to “relocating” a steel sculpture of a deer from a park and putting it on the roof of the apartment complex where they live.

As a result, the two were each charged with theft between $500 and $10,000. The sculpture is valued at approximately $5,000. It was returned to the park and installed more securely, local officials said.

From the News-Gazette:

The Champaign Park District noticed the theft of the sculpture from its base not long after it went missing and went to Facebook pleading for its return. On May 5, Champaign police received a tip that it was on the roof of the apartment complex where the two men lived, just across the street from the park to the west.

Officers went there that day and spoke to several residents, including Marchese and Murtaugh. Marchese told police that he and Murtaugh were walking home April 29 when they saw the statue lying on the ground and took it to the roof of their building. Murtaugh gave the same basic statement, according to a police report.

Marchese, a junior linebacker, played in all 12 games for Illinois last season, including two starts. He totaled 18 tackles and one tackle for loss. He also appeared in seven games in 2016 as a redshirt freshman. Marchese started his Illinois career as a walk-on but was put on scholarship for the remainder of his career back in December.

Murtaugh is a sophomore linebacker who joined the program as a walk-on in 2016. He has not appeared in a game for the Illini.

The News-Gazette said that head coach Lovie Smith is aware of the situation and “no action regarding their positions on the team has been taken.”

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Sam Cooper is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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