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Historic Burlington Document Stolen, Recovered

Burlington police say a "priceless" document more than 200-years-old was stolen from the Fletcher Free Library.
BURLINGTON, Vt. - Burlington police say a "priceless" document more than 200-years-old was stolen from the Fletcher Free Library.

Police say the thief is 55-year-old Patrick Rooney of Colchester. They say it appears after stealing the document, Rooney waited years, and recently tried to sell it.

The document was part of Burlington Proprietors Volume 1.

"A lot has to do with property sizes and who owned what land," says Robert Resnik, a reference librarian at Fletcher Free Library.

But until recently, a page from 1791 was missing and it included a familiar name, Ira Allen.

"Next to his brother Ethan, he's probably one of the most historic, most important historical figures in this part of the state," says Resnik.

In 2010, police say the page was cut out by Rooney.

"Approximately three-years later, he went to the Bailey-Howe Library and attempted to sell it to that library," says Sgt. Tom Radford, Burlington Police Department.

Radford says it just happens the staff at that UVM library had previously scanned the entire volume. Something they say Rooney had not considered when he tried to make a buck.

"The person he had spoken to was actually the person who had scanned it in several years before and she recognized the document," says Radford.

Radford says that when's police were called, Rooney was cited, and the document was returned to the library.

"Obviously during an event like this which is very unfortunate it's going to make us kind of re-evaluate and review our policies and procedures," says Rubi Simon, library director of Fletcher Free Library.

Simon says until now people only had to turn over an ID and were left alone with important documents. She says the library may consider requiring people to make appointments and always be supervised with important works.

"It's a piece of history and that's the difficult piece of that, figuring out how to ensure that for everyone to view and appreciate," says Simon.

Rooney faces charges of sale of stolen property and petit larceny. He's due in court Tuesday.

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