World War II German rifle stolen 46 years ago in Wisconsin found in Circleville

A WWII German Mauser rifle stolen 46 years ago in Madison, Wisconsin, was found in Circleville in November (Circleville PD)

CIRCLEVILLE, Ohio — What is it they say about a needle in a haystack? Impossible to find? Maybe. Maybe not.

This story about finding the long-lost ends in Circleville. It happened in November two days before Circleville Police Sgt. Matthew Hafey retired.

"I got a call of a suicidal person who threatened to shoot at law enforcement if they showed up," Hafey said.

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Luckily, that wasn't the case. The man cooperated, went to the hospital and was checked out by psychiatric professionals. As part of standard procedures, and at the request of the man's wife, all of his guns were removed from the home, temporarily, until he was deemed OK.

"When we had them in our possession, one of our standard procedures is to check all the serial numbers for stolen guns," Hafey said.

The man had an impressive gun collection, Hafey says, with 30 or so valued at more than $30,000.

One, though, stood out.

"What was it about the gun that caught your attention?" 10TV News reporter Bryant Somerville asked.

"Honestly, it made me think of my great-grandfather," Hafey said.

Sgt. Matthew Hafey's great-grandfather, Edward C. Hafey, serving in WWI in 1918 (Hafey)

Hafey's great-grandfather served in World War I and brought back a German Mauser rifle, which is something his dad now owns. And out of all the guns ran through the system, a similar World War II German Mauser rifle came back.

"It came back as stolen out of Madison, Wisconsin," Hafey said.

More than 510 miles away from Circleville is where this story starts. It's where the needle came from.

"It was stolen out of the back of his truck," a man in Madison, Wisconsin, said.

The man didn't want to be identified because of the attention the story has gotten. He's the son-in-law of the rightful owner of the gun.

"They made a police report and all that fun stuff and pretty much nothing came of it until 46 years later," he said.

The family heirloom was stolen in 1973.

"About two weeks before I was born," Hafey laughed.

Hafey, now a reserve officer, says the likelihood of finding the gun after all this time is about two percent.

"It is a satisfying thing for us because so many times, things are stolen and then disappear forever," he said.

The rifle, now back in Madison, is with police while background checks are done on its new owners.

"We're going to take it to a gunsmith and have them remove the firing pin to make it unfireable and then we're going to hang it on the wall and then she'll leave that to her grandson," the son-in-law said.

Sgt. Hafey says the other firearms collected in November were returned to the Circleville man after he was cleared by doctors.

It is likely that the gun was bought and sold many times to the point where no one knew it was stolen, according to Sgt. Hafey.