Hays — A Hays man was charged Monday in the theft of 12 paintings by local artist John Cody. A second Hays man was charged with possession of the stolen paintings.
Mitchell M. Nestir, 29, is charged with theft of items worth more than $25,000, vehicle burglary and car theft. Nestir is suspected of stealing a car that had the paintings in the trunk. When the car was recovered, the paintings and other items were not inside it.
Nestir is being held on $100,000 bond in Ellis County Jail. His bond on a Trego County charge of felony theft has been revoked.
Enid C. Tagimacruz, 46, is charged with knowingly possessing stolen property after he allegedly hid the paintings when Nestir brought them to him. Tagimacruz is being held on $100,000 bond for the art theft and also is being held on a warrant for failure to appear in Ellis County District Court on an aggravated assault charge.
The paintings, watercolor renderings of Saturniid moths, had an estimated value of $250,000. They had been loaned to Commerce Bank for a July exhibition. Hays Arts Council Director Brenda Meder had the paintings in the trunk of her car when it was stolen Aug. 6.
The paintings were recovered after Nestir and another man were arrested Aug. 12 in the beating of another Hays man at a bar. While police were questioning witnesses about the incident, Tagimacruz told them where the stolen goods were, Hays police investigator Bill Lovewell said.
Nestir was charged with aggravated robbery and felony criminal damage to property in that case.
Ellis County Attorney Tom Drees said Nestir was wanted in Connecticut on a parole violation, but Connecticut declined to extradite him because of the distance. Nestir was convicted of two burglaries in Connecticut, one of which was his mother's residence, Drees said.