MUSKEGON — A Purple Heart, battle ribbons, unit patches, insignia and other items missing from the military museum aboard the LST 393 on Muskegon's waterfront may have been recovered.
On Monday, charges against the man investigators believe took those items from the museum were authorized in Muskegon County 60th District Court. John Anthony Zaputil, 61, is charged with one count of larceny in a building, or in this case, a ship.
The felony charge is punishable by up to four years in prison and/or $5,000.
Court records show Zaputil listed an address on East Mount Garfield Road. But, according to Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson, that address is a hotel where Zaputil had been staying in recent weeks, if not months. According to Hilson, Zaputil’s home address is in Iowa.
According to online records, Zaputil is licensed as an anesthesiologist in Iowa. Hilson said medical professionals from Mercy Health were some of the first to recognize Zaputil from surveillance video shared on social media.
A spokesperson for Mercy Health said Tuesday that Zaputil is not an employee, but worked for a medical group hired to provide contracted work for the hospital.
Some of the items missing from the LST 393 were removed from display cases, and other items were ripped from uniforms on display.
“It was actually really disturbing that an individual could go in broad daylight and during the operating hours of this treasured museum and be bold enough to start taking things off of the wall and mannequins,” Hilson said.
“It has been really heartbreaking because people bring things here and they trust us to keep them safe for them and display them,” said Ike Villalpando, the LST 393 museum manager.
The items were stolen Aug. 3. Surveillance cameras scattered in and outside of LST 393 recorded who Hilson believes is Zaputil strolling through the exhibits and removing items.
The ship posted images of the surveillance video to Facebook, and local media reports also shared those images.
“And the next thing you know, people were recognizing him, including the hotel manager where he’d been staying to professionals here in town who had been working with him,” Hilson said.
Investigators are still working the case and hope to recover the missing items. Those efforts include holds on packages Hilson believes Zaputil sent to his home in Iowa and others that were in the process of being sent in the mail.
Court records show Zaputil has hired an attorney. He’s expected to arrange a time with the Muskegon County District Court to turn himself in for arraignment on the charge.