'When somebody steals your art, you never expect to see it again'

EUGENE, Ore. -- A local man was reunited with a long-lost piece of artwork on Friday, nearly a decade after he says it was stolen from an art gallery.

Spending his days at his woodside home, guarded by two old dogs, Mike Leckie works in his studio.

His works of art vary in mediums and sizes, but for him they all carry significant weight.

"That's the model for the life-sized marble piece that's in front of the Albany Library," Leckie said, holding up a small statue of two figures.

His work spans the northwest and even made it inside the Olympic Track Trials held in Eugene last year. But for him, the heaviest piece of all is a bronze sculpture he created for the World Master's Athletic Championships in 1989.

Someone stole the piece from the gallery where it was mounted around 10 years after it was created.

A decade after its disappearance, Eugene resident Anne Caldwell said she uncovered the treasure while moving in to a new house.

"I found this piece of art and I put it in my yard," said Caldwell.

After finding the statue, Caldwell snapped a picture of her new lawn ornament and sent it to police.

That's when Crime Prevention Specialist Tom Schneider stepped in to find out more about the work of art.

"I saw the picture and I thought this is no ordinary piece of junk that somebody found in a rental," Schneider said.

He was right. The sculpture is valued at around $6,000, but for Leckie it is worth much more.

"When somebody steals your art, you never expect to see it again. So its kinda nice when something shows up," Leckie said. "They liked it enough to steal it. That's kind of cool in its own weird way."

Schneider said that Leckie never reported that the piece was stolen, adding that he is lucky that his work is so prominent, which helped them track him down.