SKOWHEGAN — Dominick and Louise Rinaldi have spent four decades restoring the 14-room Victorian mansion they fell in love with at 7 Norridgewock Ave. since they moved to town in 1980.

Their final touches on the home included installing antique light poles along the driveway, a red and gold sign at its entrance that says “LaCasa Rinaldi,” and an octagon-shaped gazebo on the landscaped lawn.

Dominick and Louise Rinaldi display a picture of their deer sculptures Friday where they were located on their lawn on Norridgewock Avenue in Skowhegan. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Their crowning achievement was a trio of life-size animal sculptures — a buck with antlers, doe and fawn — designed and made by a Colorado company, painted by an artist and made to look so real that passers-by would stop to look, and real deer would come out of the woods behind their home to sniff them, according to the couple.

But sometime within the last few days, thieves stole the deer — hauled them right up out of the ground where they had been secured with 12-inch steel spikes — and whisked them away.

It could not have been an easy heist, as the sand-cast aluminum buck and doe weighed more than 90 pounds apiece; and the fawn, 60 to 70 pounds, according to the Rinaldis. They said the buck and doe are about 5 feet, 7 inches tall and the fawn, about 28 inches tall. Dominick Rinaldi, 76, said the sculptures were worth about $3,500.

“Every detail — eyes, hoofs, tail — everything was perfect,” he said Friday at his home.

He had commissioned the deer. They arrived in a 400-pound box in February last year. The family — particularly Dominick Rinaldi, who can’t walk because of severe arthritis and a bad hip — has loved and enjoyed the sculptures. He expressed outrage that somebody would take the sculptures.

He said his daughters, Kristine and Angela, are visiting from Texas. At a family dinner with about 20 people Tuesday, he asked one daughter why she hadn’t said anything about the deer on the lawn. She said there were no deer.

“I looked,” he said. “I called police. The person who does my lawn had cut the lawn Monday night, and he said they weren’t there. My next-door neighbor said, ‘I thought maybe you put them in the back yard for the kids.'”

Louise Rinaldi, 77, is heartbroken over the theft, particularly for her husband, who negotiated back and forth with the maker to get them just right.

“You work so hard to get nice things, not only for yourself but for other people to enjoy, and then they go and rob you,” she said. “What a shock to come outside and not see them there.”

Skowhegan police Officer Andrew Bowman went to the home after the theft was reported. Bowman was concerned and sympathetic, according to Dominick Rinaldi.

Louise Rinaldi on Friday displays a picture of the deer sculptures that were taken from the lawn where she and her husband live on Norridgewock Avenue in Skowhegan. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Skowhegan police Chief David Bucknam said Friday that Bowman is investigating the theft.

“We’re looking for any assistance the public can give us as to the whereabouts of the ornamental deer,” Bucknam said. “They can just give us a call at 474-6908 and speak with Officer Bowman or any other officer.”

Dominick Rinaldi said he hopes the publicity will help spread the word, and either that whoever took the deer will give them back or somebody will hear about the deer and tell police.

“I figure somebody might want to brag, and somebody might have had too many beers in town and say, ‘Hey, you’re not going to believe what I did,'” he said. “Somebody’s got to know something or see something, even if they didn’t do it.”

Rinaldi, who owned and operated an automotive business for many years in Skowhegan, also reported the theft to his insurance company. However, he said he was told he’d have to pay a $1,000 deductible and he would be charged depreciation on the sculptures, so he decided not to make a claim.

He thinks the theft might have been planned, as the three deer would not all fit into a pickup truck bed and they would have to be cushioned against potential damage, as well as padded so as not to make noise, he said.

Asked what he would say to the thieves if they read the newspaper, he said, “If they return them and put them back on the lawn, that would be the end of it — I wouldn’t do anything more.”

The Rinaldi home is on a residential, tree-lined street near the Kennebec River, diagonally across the street from the Skowhegan History House and just east of the late U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith’s home and library center on the opposite side of the road. The Rinaldis think those who stole the deer carried them down several stone steps on their lawn that go to the street itself.

The deer had been positioned near a flagpole and a four-tiered water fountain and next to a stone-lined lily garden with a sundial. Two old tall maple trees on either side of the stone steps lend shade to an otherwise sunny lawn.