Family returns ‘freed’ gorilla to East Machias store

Posted Sept. 14, 2008, at 9:50 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 7:20 a.m.

EAST MACHIAS, Maine — Suddenly, Seamore was back home — a little battered, a little broken, but still beautiful.

That’s how customers saw the mechanical gorilla on Saturday as a small caravan of cars, led by Sgt. Randy Perry of the Washington County Sheriff’s Department — with lights flashing and siren blaring — rolled into Sandy’s Sales flea market on U.S. Route 1.

Seamore was finally home after having been “kidnapped” from the store’s parking lot over Labor Day weekend and taken to Vermont.

Owners Lowell and Sandy Miller were delighted to see their longtime friend.

Shortly after 1 p.m., Annette Farrington of Waterford, the good Samaritan who rescued Seamore, and Lowell Miller gently lifted Seamore into its cage in front of Sandy’s Sales under the watchful eye of Seamore’s “daughter,” Penny, a tiny stuffed gorilla wearing a sign saying, “Welcome home, Mommy.”

“I’m sorry, Seamore, but you have to go in the cage,” Farrington said with a smile.

Farrington’s sons, Isaiah, Emmanuel and Gabriel, put large stuffed orangutans and monkeys around Seamore’s neck. Farrington makes the colorful stuffed toys and sells them.

It has been a long two weeks for the Miller family. After the kidnapper had absconded with Seamore, the Bangor Daily News ran the story and within days Seamore’s escapades became part of the international news scene.

After learning Seamore had been grabbed, Farrington mobilized her family to bring Seamore home.

Farrington described going Friday to the state police barracks in St. Albans, Vt., where Seamore was in “protective custody.”

“I handed the woman that was in the office my license and told her I was here to spring Seamore, and she started laughing,” Farrington said.

The woman and another man carried Seamore to the truck and Farrington helped load it. The family left Vermont on Friday afternoon.

Besides carrying a battle-weary gorilla in the back of their truck, members of the Farrington family had some miniadventures as they traveled the roads toward Maine. In New Hampshire they came upon a lone calf standing on the side of the road. The Farringtons turned around and went to a nearby house where a young boy was looking for his pet.

When they arrived at Sandy’s Sales on Saturday they were greeted by the University of Maine at Machias ukulele band under the direction of Gene Nichols, associate professor of music. The band played “Sandy Sales in the Sunset,” “Mother and Child Reunion” and the “Gorilla of my Dreams.”

A small group of gorilla fans had gathered in front of the store to listen to the music, snap pictures and welcome Seamore home.

Much has happened since Seamore was snatched.

An Ohio man who owns the gorilla factory where Seamore was manufactured volunteered to help. He put a video on YouTube offering a $500 reward.

The “kidnapper” saw the video and posted his own YouTube video, saying he was sorry and offering to return Seamore. And he did set Seamore free — sometime during the early morning hours last weekend. He dumped Seamore in a cornfield in Swanton, Vt. The Vermont State Police retrieved it.

Although the kidnapper was in full disguise on his YouTube video, the Maine State Police said last week that Vermont authorities did have a suspect.

One thing was clear over the weekend: The kidnapper was feeling pretty secure in his disguise. He has made two more videos. In one he was wearing a white plastic mask and riding a tricycle. He said he didn’t think he should be prosecuted since he returned the gorilla.

Although the Millers had not planned to prosecute the perpetrator, Sandy Miller said his lack of remorse and treating the kidnapping as a joke had rankled her. Although she would like to see the man prosecuted, she wasn’t looking for much — just something to teach him a lesson about people’s property. She said she would like the judge to order the man to pay restitution, fix the gorilla and participate in community service.

Seamore was a little worse for wear after the long trip. Its head had been severed from its body and there were holes and rips in its face. Its arm also was broken. “I think they must have really smacked her around a bit,” Sandy Miller said.

“She looks a little sick,” Lowell Miller added quietly.

Sandy Miller agreed. “After people see her battle wounds, we are going to have her have a face-lift,” she said. “A new rubber face.”

The Millers said they are grateful to the Farrington family and Ken Booth, the owner of the Ohio gorilla factory. “He sure did make the difference,” she said of Booth. “We will remain in contact; we’re friends.”

Miller said she also planned to stay in contact with the Farringtons.

After the long ride, a tired Farrington said she was glad she had done it. “It’s all about teaching my boys community service,” she said. “When you do it, you end up reaping more than you sow, and I want them to know that, too.”

The Waterford woman refused to be reimbursed for her trip.

Last week, the Millers started a fundraiser. Now that Farrington has declined expenses for her trip, the Millers plan to donate the money to the Machias food pantry.

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