Updated: 8:30 p.m. | Posted: 6:18 p.m.
Call it the conservatory Christmas Caper of 2018.
A band of jokester thieves apparently scaled the glass dome of the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in Como Park and stole the gold finial at the very top.
On Tuesday, St. Paul police officers found the orb inside a giant red Christmas stocking.
They have yet to find the thieves.
Good news!— Saint Paul Police Department (@sppdmn) December 18, 2018
We have recovered the finial that was stolen from atop the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in Como Park over the weekend. The golden ball will soon be home!
We're still waiting to hear who had it and whether any arrests have been made. Stay tuned for an update. pic.twitter.com/rCaDxIu3EX
This tale started back on Saturday when an employee was making her daily walk through the St. Paul park. The iconic finial was there.
By Sunday "she's walking down this corridor and noticed it's gone," said Matt Reinartz, spokesman for the zoo and conservatory.
Someone had made off with the golden ball — which had until then enjoyed a peaceful existence 64 feet off the ground on a slippery, sloping roof.
The employee sounded the alarm to other park workers Monday morning, Reinartz said. Staff scoured through hours of surveillance footage and found one camera in front of the visitor center, which had apparently captured the beginning and the end of the heist.
That footage showed about five people walking toward the conservatory's entrance and then disappear from view about 2:30 a.m. Sunday, Reinartz said
"Fifteen minutes later, they appear with the golden ball," he said.
What happened during those 15 minutes is anyone's guess.
But this was no simple theft.
"To get to this golden ball," Reinartz said, "would take a considerable amount of work. You'd have to leap, you'd have to bound, you'd have to climb. Nothing like this has happened [before.]
"It's extremely dangerous. Why somebody would want to do this in the pitch dark at night is beyond me," he said, adding he did not know how heavy the object is.
Early Tuesday night, St. Paul police said they found the ball.
Someone alerted officers after seeing the finial in a parking lot on the 1200 block of Lexington Parkway North, the department said on Twitter.
It was inside a stocking nearly the size of the police officer.
ONE MORE ABOUT THE FINIAL:— Saint Paul Police Department (@sppdmn) December 19, 2018
It was found in a giant Christmas stocking.
So ... there’s that. pic.twitter.com/Ov0PBEjt4c
That block is just outside Como Park's boundaries.
The thieves remain at large and St. Paul police are investigating.
Reinartz thinks their identities might slip out as they talk about what happened.
"Somebody knows something," Reinartz said.
MPR News editor Nancy Lebens contributed reporting.