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Stolen gun returned to shooter

PERRIS, Calif. -- An Olympic gold medalist shooter was elated to be reunited with her stolen shotgun Wednesday after it was recovered during the search of a parolee's home.

Kim Rhode had offered a $5,000 reward for the return of her shotgun, which was stolen from her pickup truck on Sept. 11 at a Lake Elsinore shopping center where she had stopped after making a promotional appearance.

"It's so good to have 'Old Faithful' back," Rhode told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "It's a wonderful day."

The Perazzi, 12-gauge shotgun was found during a probation search at a Perris residence last week, Riverside County sheriff's Sgt. Dennis Gutierrez said Wednesday.

Rhode said she was "totally floored" to get a call from police Tuesday night saying her shotgun, valued at between $20,000 and $35,000, had been found.

"You think, 'Twenty years from now, I might get it back,'" she said. "I'm relieved to have it back and all that history wasn't demolished. I'm thankful I can pass it on to my kids."

The shotgun was found underneath a bed still in its case, with Rhode's name and address embroidered inside. Missing were Olympic stickers that the suspect apparently removed, Gutierrez said.

"The lock was broken on the case," Rhode said. "They removed all the stickers on the stock of the gun to make it a little less identifiable, which is kind of a bummer because they're all from the Olympics and World Cups. I think they kind of knew what they had."

She has been competing with the shotgun for 18 years, winning Olympic gold, bronze and, most recently, silver at the Beijing Games.

The 29-year-old shooter, who is set to be married March 21 in her hometown of El Monte, Calif., plans to continue competing through the 2012 London Olympics. Rhode said she hopes to use the gun at a World Cup meet in Germany in May, her first international competition since Beijing.

"The gun looks like it's in full working order," she said. "I'm going to have it gone through and hopefully take it out and start shooting again."

Rhode said she was in the process of getting a new shotgun, but it would have taken up to nine months to have it custom made and fitted.

"One of the biggest lessons I learned in all of this is to have a backup [gun]," she said.

Gregorio Macias, 22, was booked on a probation violation and felony possession of stolen property, according to Deputy Herlinda Valenzuela. He was released on $25,000 bail over the weekend.

Macias is not believed to have stolen the shotgun from Rhode's truck, Valenzuela said. Two other suspects are still being sought.

Macias pleaded guilty in June 2007 to assault with a deadly weapon and was placed on three years' probation and ordered to spend 88 days on weekend jail time.