Police: Museum tooth thief arrested

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SOUTHPORT, NC (WWAY) — The woman accused of stealing a rare tooth from a megalodon — a giant, prehistoric shark — was arrested Tuesday after trying to stash the stolen tooth in a bush near the exhibit.

“She went all the way down to the end of the porch, and swung her arm and threw it, threw the tooth into the bushes,” said Mary Strickland, the museum manager.

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Officials said Alison Ailene Erca stole the tooth October 9 from the NC Maritime Museum. She has been charged with felonious larceny.

Police said Erca had contacted them about the theft and said she would show them where she left the tooth.

“The police called and said that she had called the night before and said that she had had remorse and left it in the gift shop. So we came down and looked in the gift shop and it wasn’t there,” said Wayne Strickland, the museum curator.

Tuesday just hours before Erca was supposed to meet with Southport police to show them where she left the tooth, she came back to the museum, and police say she tried to put the tooth in the gift shop.

But employees were one step ahead of her. They put up tape to make sure no one could get in the shop.

Police said Erca then tried to throw the tooth into a bush to get rid of it. She was arrested shortly after.

“She walked in purposefully to go into the gift shop and stopped cold by the tape, the blue tape, and she stood there and she was lost,” Mary said.

The tooth will be on display again, but this time in a more secure case.

“It’s home,” Mary said. “It feels good to have it back. We’re very proud of it.”

The magalodon tooth, which is about 6.5″ long and 5 inches wide, was kept under a glass dome on a stand. Museum officials said Erca was caught on surveillance video taking the tooth and shoving it down the front of her pants before leaving.

There was a second woman seen with Erca on the surveillance images; no word on if that person is a suspect as well.

The tooth was found on the shark ledge off the coast and is the largest specimen discovered, museum officials said. Its worth is probably about $500 or more.