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Stolen cemetery relic honoring Jefferson Davis found 300 miles from Selma, 2 arrested

Updated: Apr. 9, 2021 at 3:27 PM CDT
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SELMA, Ala. (WSFA) - A century-old Confederate relic that made national headlines after being stolen from a Selma cemetery and held for ransom has been recovered. Two people have subsequently been arrested and charged.

The Jefferson Davis Memorial Chair, uprooted from the spot where it sat since 1893 in Old Live Oak Cemetery, was found 300 miles south in a tattoo parlor, according to the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office and the Selma Police Department.

“We started receiving tips from a possible location,” said Sheriff Mike Granthum. “We even had cell phone communications after collaborating with them a little bit.”

County investigators immediately alerted Selma police and before long New Orleans police became a major part of the investigation.

“And after looking at video footage, they were able to go back and apprehend two suspects,” said Selma police detective Sgt. Ray Blanks.

The ornate stone chair, which weighs several hundred pounds, was located by New Orleans police, who have since arrested two people for allegedly receiving stolen property across state lines.

NOLA police aren’t releasing the names of the suspects, for now, but say they are a 32-year-old man and a 24-year-old woman. The unnamed tattoo parlor where the stolen piece was found is owned by the male suspect.

A group calling itself ‘White Lies Matter’ claimed responsibility and demanded it would be returned only if the national United Daughters of the Confederacy, headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, would hang a banner on its building on Friday, the anniversary of the Confederacy’s surrender in the Civil War more than 150 years ago.

It appears the chair, which honors Confederate President Jefferson Davis, is intact. It was taken from its brick foundation in mid-March, at which time Selma police were asked to investigate.

A slab with a historic marker is all that remains inside the Old Live Oak Cemetery in Selma...
A slab with a historic marker is all that remains inside the Old Live Oak Cemetery in Selma after thieves apparently took a heavy, ornate stone chair honoring the late Confederate President Jefferson Davis.(Source: WSFA 12 News)

The chair was found wrapped and is now back in Selma at an undisclosed location, according to police. The United Daughters of the Confederacy confirmed to WWBT in Richmond that it is in their possession.

The group further tells WSFA 12 News the chair, which it says is valued at about $500,000, will be returned to its original spot at some point.

Selma investigators say their probe now enters the ‘probable cause’ phase. The suspects are currently charged with felony receiving stolen property, but authorities are still working to determine whether they actually stole the piece.

Also unclear is whether the two suspects are connected to the so-called ‘White Lies Matter’ group that’s claimed responsibility. Part of this on-going investigation is to determine whether ‘White Lies Matter’ is even legitimate.

“That part is being looked at,” Sgt. Blanks said.

Though the chair was placed in the historic cemetery where a number of prominent members of society, including a U.S. vice president, have been laid to rest, Davis is not among them. His grave is located in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.

The chair was given by the Ladies of Selma in May of 1893 as a way of honoring Davis for his previous visits to the west Alabama city.

Copyright 2021 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.