Whoever stole pieces of a sculpture from storage in Edina apparently thought better of the thievery and coughed up the ceramic blocks under cover of darkness, police said Monday.

It was sometime between Oct. 26 and Nov. 19 that six pieces from the clay-based artwork "Three Trees" were stolen from a storage yard near a building at Fred Richards Park, city officials said.

The pieces that make up "Three Trees," standing 10, 8 and 7 feet tall when assembled, were deconstructed into nine sections before removal from display on the Edina Promenade, an 80-foot-wide greenway in the heart of the Southdale area that is getting a makeover.

The pinched pieces were "returned to the park, presumably overnight," said Police Sgt. Kevin Rofidal. "Looks like the thieves got nervous after the news coverage and put [them] back."

Rofidal said police are now going over the pieces for forensic clues that might lead them to an arrest, while the artist will inspect the artwork for damage.

"Three Trees" is the creation of Kevin Komadina, who donated it to the city. Komadina is a critical care physician and ceramics artist who lives in and has a studio in Edina.

Komadina, whose works have been in galleries nationwide, said Sunday that all the trees combined weigh roughly 1,000 pounds, making each piece quite heavy "and a pain to move."

He said that unlike copper or other precious metals used for artwork, his ceramic pieces "have no salvage value. … I just don't get it."

Komadina, who creates and sells ceramic vessels, sculptures and tile murals, has valued "Three Trees" at $17,000.

Anyone with information about the theft is urged to call police at 952-826-1600 or e-mail police@EdinaMN.gov. Tipsters can remain anonymous.

This theft may be related to the stealing of a large bronze statue of "Lady Justice" from the vestibule of the Heritage of Edina senior living community between 2:45 p.m. and 5:45 a.m. on Nov. 23, the city added.

Police said that piece has been recovered thanks to the arrest of a drug suspect who had a photo of the statue on his cellphone. Investigators then tracked down the statue to a scrap yard in St. Paul.

"I really think what blew this case open was the digital forensics," Rofidal said Monday. "Deep in the suspect's phone we found text messaging about stealing art, photos and Internet search history about selling art."