- Associated Press - Thursday, January 23, 2014

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) - Police officers searching through a snowbank with a metal detector recovered a Purple Heart medal that was stolen from the brother of a late Vietnam War veteran in Kalispell.

Greg Smith reported a shadow box containing his brother’s military uniform and medals - including a Purple Heart and Bronze Star - was stolen from his frame shop on Jan. 9.

Police later arrested 25-year-old Sean David Smith in connection with the theft and recovered at least two of the medals. Officers said associates of Smith turned in others, but police learned the uniform and other medals belonging to U.S. Army Capt. James Smith might be in garbage bins in the Kalispell area.

Officer Brett Corbett told The Daily Inter Lake (http://bit.ly/1dXRN76 ) on Wednesday that investigators recovered the Purple Heart and believed the final missing medal, a Bronze Star, would be recovered later Wednesday.

“If they do, then I think all of the medals would have been recovered,” Corbett said. Police don’t think they will be able to recover the uniform.

Greg Smith said officers had already found more than he ever thought they would.

“What I hear is they even looked through some Dumpsters,” Greg Smith said. “They definitely went above and beyond. How often do they go around with metal detectors just looking for stuff? It’s just been super.”

Community members also have also offered their support. Greg Smith said the VFW offered to replace any Vietnam-era medals that weren’t recovered, a woman offered $100 to start a reward fund for the return of any of the pieces and another offered a Purple Heart.

Greg Smith said he hopes the fallout of the theft will help Sean Smith change his behavior. The two men aren’t related.

“I hope he’s learned a lesson and I hope it scared him a little bit,” he said. “I think it’s probably been the most visual and most publicized thing he’s ever done. To have your name and picture plastered all over everything can’t be a good feeling for anyone.”

Sean Smith has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor theft in Kalispell Municipal Court in the case of the missing uniform and faces an unrelated misdemeanor theft charge. He also faces numerous other charges including felony forgery for the 2012 theft of checkbooks on which $6,725 in forged checks were written; pawning stolen items last year to pay off a drug debt and selling $50 in heroin in 2012. He has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges and is jailed with his bail set at just over $52,000.

Sean Smith’s attorney, Lane Bennett, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

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Information from: Daily Inter Lake, http://www.dailyinterlake.com

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