Man suspected of stealing lemur and holding it for ransom is arrested

File photo of a ring-tailed lemur (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
File photo of a ring-tailed lemur (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A missing primate. Hapless crooks. A big reward. A no-nonsense sheriff. Behold the tale of Gizmo, the ring-tailed lemur.

When Gizmo was stolen—along with a TV—from his owner, Julie Harris, in Mobile, Ala., last month, the alleged thief, James Edward Welborn Jr., asked his unsuspecting sister to look after it. (He told her it belonged to a friend serving in Afghanistan.)

That's when things got interesting. When Harris posted fliers with the missing lemur's picture and an offer of a substantial reward, Welborn's sister realized what she had in her possession. She asked her brother to come get the lemur, but he sent a friend, Brian Sanders, to pick it up instead. He also had Sanders contact Harris to tell her they had taken her pet—and wanted the money in return for it.

But according to, a tipster sent the cops Sanders way. Authorities arrested him and returned the lemur to its rightful owner. However, they knew they hadn't caught the actual thief yet, and the search continued. According to the site, "Mobile County detective Bryant Miles contacted George County detective Ben Brown with information that the burglary suspect might be a Lucedale resident."

When Welborn was pulled over earlier this week for a routine traffic violation, he was toast. He was arrested and also stands accused of attempting to hold Gizmo, valued at $1,500, for ransom.

George County Sheriff Dean Howell saw the humor in the ill-fated caper: "This is hands down ... the oddest, funniest [case] I’ve ever worked," he said.

Funny or not, Howell was happy to put the matter to rest. "We don’t put up with any monkey business in George County," he said.