PORT RICHEY — It was Sunday, the day after his 37th birthday, and Peter Keenan was at his regular comic book store when something caught his eye. Many of the items on the racks at Colossal Comics in New Port Richey looked familiar, like ones he had stored at an ex-girlfriend's house, right down to cards he taped inside the plastic sleeves.
He called his ex, Natasha Cornell, and when she checked the closet, where he stored the comics in acid-free cardboard boxes, she discovered the majority were missing. Keenan, according to the Pasco Sheriff's Office, reported 1,500 comics worth $12,000 stolen. One, The Incredible Hulk, was worth $1,200, according to the report. It did not say what year it was published. Keenan, an unemployed cab driver, declined comment and the report does not say why the collection was at his former girlfriend's house. She also declined to talk to the Times.
An investigation led authorities to Jeffrey Curl, a 26-year-old unemployed friend of Cornell's. Curl, who lives in Port Richey, was arrested Wednesday and charged with grand theft. As of Thursday, he was being held in the Land O'Lakes jail in lieu of $5,000 bail.
According to the arrest report, Curl confessed to taking the comics, but said Andrew Martinez was the mastermind and paid him with Roxicodone, a prescribed painkiller, for his help. Martinez, the 23-year-old boyfriend of Cornell's sister, told authorities he was duped by Curl, who told him the comic books were his. Martinez has not been charged.
Jason Heely, manager at Colossal Comics, told the Times that Curl and Martinez were in his store together six or seven times during July and that he paid them nearly $1,000 for all the comic books they brought in.
He said Keenan is a regular who comes in twice a week.
"He's disgruntled," Heely said, adding he sold some of the comics he bought from Curl and Martinez and is awaiting word from authorities on how to return any that might belong to Keenan. Heely said Keenan, however, didn't have a precise inventory of his collection.
"I don't know what he's going to do," Heely said.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.