4 arrested, connected with Denver Botanic Gardens Chihuly artwork theft

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(Photo: Denver District Attorney's Office)

(Photo: Denver District Attorney’s Office)

DENVER — Several sizable, essentially invaluable pieces of glass art stolen from an exhibition at the Denver Botanic Gardens in August were recovered later that month on the eastern plains. On Wednesday, the Denver District Attorney announced that one teen, two 20-somethings and one 36-year-old had been arrested in connection with the theft.

Alex Brook, 23, and Joseph Parnell, 36 were both charged with theft, criminal mischief and tampering with evidence. Sean Sorensen, 20, and Auvia Bellamy, 19, were charged with theft. All the charges filed against the suspects are felonies.

The stolen works of art were part of a large collection completed by world renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly and on display at the Denver Botanic Gardens at the time of their theft on Aug. 22. Though the stolen pieces were estimated as being worth about $100,000, most local art dealers suspected the thieves would have little to no chance at selling or showing  them.

“I can’t imagine what someone would do with the glass spires,” said Linda Cook with David Cook Galleries. “I figured it had to be someone who wanted those in their garden. But I have no idea.”

The suspects’ intentions were not made public in the press release issued by Denver District Attorney Mich Morrissey’s office on Wednesday, nor were their methods. In the wake of the crime, many marveled at how the theft was executed, as the glass pieces are both heavy and delicate.

“We did have a camera on the sight,” said Brian Vogt, CEO of the Denver Botanic Gardens. “But it happened just off the edge of the camera, so we didn’t have a clear view of the theft taking place.”

The Chihuly glass dazzled spectators all summer long, attracting huge crowds to the gardens. Attendance at the gardens has nearly quadrupled since the exhibit opened in June.

“It was like no other exhibit we’ve ever had before, and we’ve had some major exhibits,” Vogt said. “But this was one that really caught global attention.”

Security at the gardens has been tripled since the theft.

The pieces that were stolen included several glass cylinders that resembled cattails as well as a glass orb. The charges filed by the district attorney allege that Brook and Parnell took several of the glass cattails and left them in a corn field near the rural Colorado town of Strasburg. The orb was recovered in tact, according to the press release, but the cattails had been destroyed by the time they were found.