Houston police refuse to name any suspects in the case of a vandalized original painting by Pablo Picasso.
The portrait known as "Woman in Red Arm Chair" was on display at Houston's Menil Collection when a man spray painted the masterpiece and escaped. The vandal marred the artwork with a stenciled image of a bull, along with the word "Conquista."
It's a strange mystery, at this point, with social networking sites openly discussing the person allegedly responsible for the crime before any arrests have been made. Also unusual is that the act itself was caught on video by a man who posted it on Youtube.
A man claiming to be the cameraman said in a televised interview that he just happened to be at the museum at that time when he saw the vandalism taking place. He already had his smart phone out and was able to catch the event with its camera. Although the TV station gave this man anonymity, his alleged identity is also part of the on-line chatter, along with the accusation that he was in on the act.
Houston police are investigating the crime as a case of "criminal mischief" that carries up to a 2 year jail sentence. FOX 26 Legal Analyst Chris Tritico says the charge could be upgraded if the Menil assesses the damage at more than $20,000.
"If they can prove that the value of the painting has decreased and that value is greater than $20,000, then it can go up to a higher grade of felony," Tritico said, adding that it could become a 1st degree felony if the Menil loss was assessed at more than $200,000.
Nevertheless, Tritico say the criminal mischief charge carries a strong likelihood of extended time behind bars. If no probation is granted, the sentence is a minimum of 180 days, and a maximum of 2 years.
"There's no good time credit, and there's no parole from state jail, so if you get 2 years, you'll be there for 2 straight years."
And Tritico says if the man behind the camera was in on the act, he could be looking at the same sentence.
Meanwhile the Picasso masterpiece is recovering at the Menil's artwork "emergency room." Menil spokesman Vance Muse told FOX 26 it was still in the restoration process but that all of the vandal's paint was successfully removed.