#FreeTheGorillas Comes to a Happy Conclusion

by Josh Colletta

It’s a search that captivated the Michindoh area.

Giant stuffed animals King Louie and Rainbow were “gorilla-napped” from their owner Paul Didier’s home across the street from the Fremont school complex at around 9:15 on the night of Wednesday, April 3rd.

According to WANE, Didier, who is autistic, considers the plushes to be family, and he was devastated.

The next afternoon, the Fremont Police Department put the word out on their Facebook page that the duo were missing, and the #FreeTheGorillas social media campaign took off, with the community desperate to find these beloved fixtures who welcome kids to school every Spring.

The outpouring was tremendous. There were over a thousand shares of the original post in the first 24 hours. Comments on the post included offers to repair any harm brought to the plush friends. Broadcast and print media was abuzz.

One Fremont resident — Shawna Connelly — even gave up her own giant stuffed gorilla as a gift.

Shawna Connelly of Fremont gifted her own giant stuffed gorilla while King Louie and Rainbow were still missing.

Two days later, on the 6th, there was a break in the case… but some bittersweet news to go along with it. King Louie was found unharmed and returned to his owner. FPD had identified the suspect in the theft: a 17-year-old from just up the highway in Coldwater.

Sadly, it was determined that Rainbow could not be returned.

King Louie returned unharmed, much to owner Paul’s joy. (Courtesy of the Fremont Police Department)

But all was not lost! Monday evening, the Fremont Police Department announced on Facebook that Rainbow had been returned!

Rainbow does require a little surgery, so some “doctors” in Fort Wayne who specialize in stuffed animal “patients” will be helping out.

Authorities say the 17-year-old Coldwater male met with Didier and his family on Monday and apologized. According to WANE, the boy said his friends convinced him to steal the gorillas as a prank. Didier forgave him, and he isn’t pressing charges.

Instead, the youth will work off his debt by donating his time to Promise Land Community, the Didier family’s non-profit organization, which mentors those who have special needs and their families.

When all is said and done, Paul, King Louie, Rainbow, and their entire plush family will once again be happily welcoming kids to school.

And the community who helped make that possible will be just as glad to have them back.

Paul Didier and his stuffed animals, including gifts from the community. (Courtesy of WANE)