Jason Watson was browsing on Craigslist when he spotted something different.
It was a bright yellow xylophone for just $20 in Richland. The Kennewick graphic designer just figured it would make another weird instrument for his collection.
“I thought it was shoe-box sized,” he said.
Soon Watson discovered the $7,500 marimba was much bigger. And as soon as he saw it in person, he knew that it was stolen months ago from Richland’s Howard Amon Park.
Watson, a Kennewick arts commissioner, told the Herald that he was nervous when he talked to the seller.
“I wasn’t sure what to do,” he said. “If I don’t buy it, someone else might buy it and run off with it.”
Or, he thought, maybe he could be charged with possessing stolen property.
“I knew if I gave him $20, I wouldn’t get that $20 back,” Watson said. “But seeing kids playing it in the park again? That would be worth it.”
He paid the $20, loaded the instrument into his truck and headed to his parents’ house.
He told his father that they wouldn’t be able to work on a car as planned, they needed to take the marimba to the Richland police station.
The seller would later tell police that he didn’t steal it, just bought it from someone else.
Detectives, eventually, exhausted their leads after tracking the instrument from one seller to another, without finding the original thief.
Watson bought the marimba in November and police asked him to hold off talking about it until they’d finished trying to find the culprits.
On Monday he posted about it on his Facebook page and his good deed already has gone viral, getting posted to ellenNation.
The instrument was recently reinstalled more securely than before, said Phil Pinnard, planning and construction manager with Richland’s parks and public facilities department.
“It won’t be removed as easily again,” he said.
Watson is looking forward to having it back where it belongs. He plays in some bands and, before it was stolen, had hoped to use the marimba in a recording.
Now, he might have that chance again.
Pinnard said it was in good shape when it was recovered, with just a little missing paint.
“There were some kids playing it last week, and it sounded good to me,” Pinnard said. “Some things just work out.”