Ronald McDonald statue 'kidnapped' in Columbus

Columbus police are investigating a Thanksgiving clown-napping.

The clown in this case is the fast-food icon Ronald McDonald, a life-sized statue of whom once sat upon a brown bench in the playground of the 1436 Manchester Expressway McDonald’s.

Not anymore.

On Friday morning, employees discovered someone had cut a chain on the playground gate and “kidnapped” Ronald from the bench, causing some damage to it.

A manager told police the theft likely occurred between 11 a.m. Thanksgiving Day and 5 a.m. Friday. She said the business has video surveillance, which would be reviewed for clues.

A worker answering the phone there Saturday referred inquiries to Pezold Management, the eatery’s parent Columbus company. No one with Pezold Management could be reached for comment Saturday.

Police say the Hamburglars responsible for this crime could face felony charges of theft by taking, because of the statue’s value. It’s worth more than $500, according to police records.

The restaurant manager told investigators she would calculate the exact cost of the statue as well as the business’ property damage.

Thieves at least twice this year have targeted Ronald McDonald in other cities.

In February, the Seattle Times reported two teens, ages 14 and 15, were arrested for stealing and vandalizing a Ronald McDonald statue outside a Ronald McDonald House, which provides lodging for families when children are being treated at a nearby hospital.

In September, authorities in Denver said thieves had taken the clown from a bench in front of the Ronald McDonald House there, according to the Denver Post.

Ronald McDonald first appeared in the fast-food chain’s nationwide TV ads in 1965, and gained further exposure by joining the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade the following year.

In 1971, other characters such as Mayor McCheese and the Hamburglar joined Ronald in McDonaldland.