DENVER — A suspected art thief won’t face criminal charges after a Denver detective made a deal with the suspect even though the victim said she never approved.
“I feel so betrayed by the police department,” Boulder artist Alexis McLean said.
Five months after her artwork went missing, police executed a search warrant at a warehouse at 1670 S. Beeler St., owned by Mark Adcock. FOX31 Denver was there when police brought out seven of eight paintings McLean had reported stolen.
“Oh, I’m so relieved. That one is still missing but at this point, we’re going to find it,” McLean said April 28 before confidently adding “I’m pressing charges” against Adcock.
But later that same day, a detective told Adcock that McLean wouldn’t press charges if he agreed to turn in the eighth painting, so Adcock did.
“My wording was, I will consider it. I will consider it, but first I need all the paintings back,” said McLean, who added she later decided she still wanted to press charges only to learn that the Denver District Attorney’s Office wasn’t willing to go forward.
“I feel badly that we can’t proceed in a manner that she now wishes we could,” said Lynn Kimbrough, spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office.
Kimbrough said prosecutors can’t ethically charge a man with theft if police made a deal with him to get the final painting back.
“It would call into question our integrity as well to go back and say to a suspect, ‘Hey, I know you were told we wouldn’t press charges if you returned the artwork but just kidding,'” Kimbrough said.
The District Attorney’s Office said the detective was acting in good faith and honestly thought McLean was OK with the deal in order to get her final painting back.
“It’s just so crazy to me. … The legal system is supposed to protect victims but instead it just seems like they’re helping out a criminal,” McLean said.
In the fall, McLean agreed to loan eight of her paintings, valued at $32,000, to a home being auctioned off in the upscale Lowry neighborhood to better stage it.
But when the auction failed to sell the house, McLean said she had trouble reaching the home’s new real estate agent, Adcock, to find out when and where she could pick up her artwork.
In their final email exchange, dated April 13, Adcock wrote, “Don’t ever contact me again.”
Adcock has since said he was keeping McLean’s artwork until she agreed to provide him information about whoever might have stolen his wife’s Rolex watch from the Lowry house he had been trying to sell.
“I don’t think I did anything wrong,” Adcock said. “She agreed to provide me information, I agreed to find her artwork.”
McLean said the agreement only existed in Adcock’s head. She repeatedly said she would have no idea who might have taken the Rolex that supposedly was left on the kitchen counter. She just wanted her paintings back.
When asked why he didn’t return McLean’s artwork months ago when police asked him about it, Adcock said he didn’t have it at the time.
“I told police I could find her artwork,” Adcock said.
He said he hired a cleaning crew to haul away the artwork in December but admitted he never called police or McLean to retrieve the artwork when he claimed he later tracked down the paintings and had them brought to his warehouse.
When asked why it took a search warrant to reveal he had been keeping the artwork, Adcock said, “I don’t know.”
Police released a statement defending its detective for making a handshake deal with Adcock to avoid charges.
“The Denver Police Department responds to approximately 500,000 calls each year, and only 16 percent of those require an official action like a report or arrest,” the statement said. “Many of the remaining issues are mediated or negotiated by officers with the goal of reaching a resolution. If citizens feel their case was not handled in the proper manner, we encourage them to contact the Denver Police Internal Affairs unit so the Department can review the actions in question.”
McLean said she has no intention of filing a complaint at this point and just wants to focus on her artwork.