By David Schwartz
PHOENIX, June 12 (Reuters) - A rare, first-edition copy of the Book of Mormon stolen from a suburban Phoenix bookstore was recovered on Tuesday in the Washington, D.C., area, and the suspected thief has been arrested, authorities said.
Jay Linford was taken into custody outside a Washington-area apartment by agents from the U.S. Marshals Service and the FBI, police in Mesa, Arizona, said in a statement late on Tuesday. He was jailed in lieu of $40,000 bond and faced extradition to Arizona.
Agents recovered the 1830 leather-bound volume, valued at $100,000 by its owner, bookstore proprietor Helen Schlie, inside the apartment in executing a search warrant, the statement said. Police said experts estimated the book's value at about $40,000.
"Linford is known to the victim and was present at her store during the time of the theft," Mesa police spokesman Sergeant Tony Landato, said in the statement. The book had been missing since May 28.
The U.S. marshal for Arizona, David Gonzales, said the apartment belonged to an "associate" of Linford.
Schlie told Reuters on Tuesday that Linford was a "very close friend," who in 2006 published a book of her poems and planned seven more books of her work.
"This really, really hurts my heart," said Schlie, 88, in a brief telephone interview. "He's the age of my grandchildren. This is very sad for me."
Schlie, a converted Mormon, declined any additional comment.
The Book of Mormon is a foundational, holy text of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published by church founder Joseph Smith. He claimed the manuscript came from his translation of an ancient "reformed Egyptian" text engraved on golden plates he found buried, with the guidance of an angel, in a stone box near his home in New York state.
Schlie, who bought the first-edition print in the late 1960s, discovered the book was missing when she went to retrieve it for two visiting missionaries from Asia who wanted to take a picture with it. She said such requests were common over the years.
The bookstore owner said she normally kept the book inside the bottom drawer of an unlocked file cabinet in her office.
Schlie, whose cramped store is a block away from a large Mormon temple, sparked controversy in 2005 when she started to sell framed pages out of the book for between $2,500 and $4,000 each. About 50 pages have been sold.
She has said her intention was to earn enough money to open an ice cream parlor that would generate revenue for Mormon youths to help pay for their missions and perhaps future education. (Editing by Steve Gorman and Lisa Shumaker)