Offbeat A stolen painting worth $160 million turned up in the bedroom of a small-town couple, and investigators just got a new clue in the case

09:51  08 august  2018
09:51  08 august  2018 Source:   msn.com

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They were a lovely couple , neighbors in the small New Mexico town of Cliff would later tell reporters. Among them: After the couple died, a stolen Willem de Kooning painting with an estimated worth of $ 160 million was discovered in their bedroom .

They were a lovely couple , neighbors in the small New Mexico town of Cliff would later tell reporters. Among them: After the couple died, a stolen Willem de Kooning painting with an estimated worth of $ 160 million was discovered in their bedroom .

a couple of people that are wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: painting© Provided by Business Insider Inc painting - When Jerry and Rita Alter died, a painting found in the couple's bedroom turned out to be a famous work by Willem de Kooning, stolen from a museum in Arizona decades before.

- The de Kooning painting, “Woman-Ochre,” is estimated to have a value of $160 million.

- The Alters, described as quiet, nice, and unassuming, worked in the public school system and seem to make for unlikely art thieves—but many signs potentially point to them.

No one would have suspected Jerry and Rita Alter, a pleasant couple who lived in the tiny town of Cliff, New Mexico, of being daring art thieves. Yet the couple, both of whom have died, remain at the center of an ongoing FBI investigation into the unsolved theft of a hugely valuable painting. Now, a new photograph may help officials get to the bottom of the theft.

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$ 160 MILLION painting stolen in 1985, in case that baffled the FBI, is found hanging in their BEDROOM after their deaths. The painting was found in the bedroom of Jerry and Rita's home in August 2017 after they died.

They were a lovely couple , neighbours in the small New Mexico town of Cliff would later tell reporters. But no one knew much about them. They may have been hiding a decades-old secret, pieces of which are now just emerging.

A painting disappears from a museum, and turns up on the bedroom wall of an unassuming couple 31 years later.

More than three decades ago, a man and a woman walked into the University of Arizona Museum of Art in Tucson, Arizona. While the woman struck up a conversation with the guard, the man went upstairs, then quickly returned, and the couple left, according to The Washington Post.

Uneasy, the guard investigated, and found the Willem de Kooning painting “Woman-Ochre” cut out of its frame. There were no surveillance cameras at the museum at that time, and no fingerprints left behind, reported the Post. The missing painting — and the identity of the thieves — remained a mystery for 31 years.

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The painting didn't resurface until 2017, when it was discovered hanging in Jerry and Rita Alter's bedroom after Rita's death (Jerry had died five years earlier.) The work was hung so that it could only be seen when the door was closed. It was purchased by antiques dealers, along with other possessions, for just $2,000 in a liquidation sale of the Alters' estate.

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They were a lovely couple , neighbors in the small New Mexico town of Cliff would later tell reporters. Among them: After the couple died, a stolen Willem de Kooning painting with an estimated worth of $ 160 million was discovered in their bedroom .

$ 160 MILLION painting stolen in 1985, in case that baffled the FBI, is found hanging in their BEDROOM after their deaths. As the FBI investigates the theft, clues are beginning to emerge about the small - town couple accused of snatching de Kooning’s prized painting from the Arizona museum

De Kooning was a leading painter of the abstract expressionist movement, and his artworks regularly sell for some of the highest market values in the world. In 2006, reported the New York Times, another painting in the “Woman-Ochre” series sold for $137.5 million. The “Woman-Ochre” recovered from the Alters’ house is currently valued at $160 million.

It didn’t take long for the purchasers, the proprietors of Manzanita Ridge Furniture and Antiques, to realize they had something special on their hands. When antique dealers Buck Burns, Rick Johnson, and David Van Auker researched the painting, reported the Silver City Daily Press, they discovered its mysterious theft. A delegation from the museum confirmed its authenticity, and the painting was returned, but officials were still unable to pin the theft on the Alters.

A newly discovered photograph could help investigators solve the long-running crime.

But new evidence, reveals that the Alters were in fact in the vicinity of the museum the day before the painting was stolen, reports the Arizona Republic. A photo unearthed by Rita Alter's nephew Ron Roseman shows the couple at a Thanksgiving gathering in nearby Tucson, Arizona, right before the theft. The Alters, Roseman told the paper, also allegedly owned a red sports car similar to the one described as the "getaway vehicle" by witnesses.

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They were a lovely couple , neighbours in the small New Mexico town of Cliff would later tell reporters. After the couple died, a stolen Willem de Kooning painting with an estimated worth of US$ 160 million (NZ7m) was discovered in their bedroom .

They were a lovely couple , neighbors in the small New Mexico town of Cliff would later tell reporters. But no one knew much about them.

"We have no idea when they got [the painting], how they got it, if they were involved, if they bought it from someone. Ultimately there’s a lot of coincidence," he told The Republic.

At first glance, the couple would seem to make for extremely unlikely art thieves. Jerry Alter was a musician, teacher, and writer, and Rita Alter worked as a speech pathologist. But the couple also seemed to have a lot of money, and traveled to locations around the world over the years, visiting all seven continents and over a 140 countries, ostensibly on their public school salaries, reported the Washington Post. They also left behind more than a million dollars in their bank account.

"I can’t believe Rita would be involved in anything like that," Mark Shay, one of Rita Alter’s former coworkers, told The Washington Post. He suggested that perhaps the Alters had simply purchased the painting from someone else, unaware of its origin.

Police sketches done at the time appear to resemble the couple, though. The New York Times notes the sketch more closely resembles Jerry Alter dressed as a woman and the man resembles the couple’s son, Joseph Alter. In 2011, Jerry Alter self-published a collection of short stories titled The Cup and the Lip. In one of the stories, two people steal a valuable gemstone from an art museum after outsmarting and then killing a security guard.

a drawing of a person: Screen Shot 2018 08 07 at 10.32.45 AM© Provided by Business Insider Inc Screen Shot 2018 08 07 at 10.32.45 AM

According to the New York Times, the FBI’s investigation into the case is ongoing, and they have declined to comment until their investigation is closed. It’s possible that the mystery could never be fully resolved — but many believe there may have been more to Rita and Jerry Alter than met the eye.

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