Man won't face jail time in Michigan WWII museum theft case

Posted at 2:23 PM, Jan 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-30 14:30:14-05

MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) — A man accused of stealing several artifacts from a western Michigan museum that's housed on a World War II-era warship has pleaded guilty to trespassing and won't face any jail time.

John Zaputil, 62, had been charged with theft for allegedly taking about a dozen items, including medals, a shoulder patch and lapel pins, from the USS LST 393 Veterans Museum in Muskegon last August.

But he pleaded guilty Wednesday to trespassing, a misdemeanor, and under his plea agreement will not face jail time when he’s sentenced March 25, The Muskegon Chronicle reported.

His plea states that he entered “exhibits and cases” despite posted warning signs inside the museum, which is located inside a WWII-era troop landing ship.

Muskegon County Circuit Judge Timothy Hicks said Zaputil's plea followed what he called “very extensive mediation.”

Museum board member Daniel Weikel said all of the stolen items have been returned.

Volunteers and museum board members said they were satisfied with the plea, but they said the incident has had a lasting impact, with donors asking for the return of more than 140 artifacts they worried were not safe at the museum.

Authorities said Zaputil is from Iowa, but had been staying at a local hotel in the months prior to the thefts. He is a licensed osteopathic physician in Michigan and a licensed anesthesiologist in Iowa.