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Tracking Jackson's Jacket : Fancy Police Work Recovers Pop Star's Even Fancier Garment

September 22, 1993|ELAINE TASSY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Here's one Michael Jackson mystery that has been solved.

His dazzling jacket is back where it belongs--in a Hollywood museum--after being stolen, sold on the cheap to a clothing store and then purchased by an unsuspecting fan.

Los Angeles police said Tuesday that the military-style black leather jacket with gold plating has been returned to the Guinness Museum of World Records, from which it was stolen Sept. 4.

The crestfallen fan, who idolizes Jackson so much that she borrowed $1,000 to buy the jacket, will get most of her money back, police said.

Officers said the jacket, which Jackson donated to the museum in April to adorn its statue of him, was stolen by a man who two days later sold it to Formula UNO, a used leather clothing store in Hollywood.

Store owner Mario Cesario paid $100 for the jacket, not knowing that it was stolen and not suspecting that it had once belonged to Jackson. He displayed it in his store window, asking $975.

Soon, the fan, Audrey Ruttan, a professional clown whose goal is to become a Jackson impersonator, saw the jacket and fell in love with it. She went to a loan company, came back and paid Cesario a flat $1,000, tax included.

"I busted my butt to get the money," said Ruttan, 39, of Van Nuys, who works as Jiffy the Magic Clown, performing at about three parties per week at $100 each.

She whisked the jacket, adorned with gold studs and badges, to her mobile home, which is packed with a life-size Michael Jackson cardboard cutout, other Jackson memorabilia, rabbits, cats, glittery wigs and other magic supplies.

Ruttan, who is white, says she resembles Michael Jackson when she wears makeup, and she is working on a Michael Jackson routine she hopes to soon perform in public. "I can do the moonwalk," she says.

She wore her beloved jacket for little more than a week. Then, last Thursday, police took it back in a sting operation.

Ruttan received a call from Detective Sandy Kimber, who told Ruttan she wanted to reserve her services for a party. Ruttan invited Kimber to her mobile home to discuss it further.

Kimber arrived with other detectives, who identified themselves and told Ruttan she had to give up the jacket.

"I just about dropped" at the sight of the detectives, Ruttan said. "I felt the way they did things was a setup." At first, she denied having the jacket, then tearfully surrendered it.

"I was very heartbroken," she lamented. "A part of Michael was taken from me."

Detectives said they traced the jacket after a tip from a source.

Detectives returned the jacket to the museum the day after obtaining it from Ruttan. On Monday they went to Formula UNO, asking Cesario to return Ruttan's money. He wrote a $900 check.

Detectives told Ruttan she could collect the check today.

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