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4 accused of stealing Chihuly art from botanical gardens

January 22, 2015

DENVER (AP) — When four blown-glass pieces by world-famous sculptor Dale Chihuly disappeared last summer from an open-air exhibit at the Denver Botanic Gardens, police had no clues to go on.

Five months later, investigators say a tip led them to four suspects, who weren’t professional art thieves but a group of friends who said they were bored and didn’t know the value of the pieces.

Alex Brook, 23, Joseph Parnell, 36, Sean Sorensen, 20, and Auvia Bellamy, 19, were charged Wednesday with taking a glass orb and three glass cattails — tall plants that grow near water — worth $100,000.

The group didn’t realize the value of the artwork until seeing news reports about the theft, according to court documents.

After getting a tip on Jan. 2, police recovered the orb in a spare bedroom at Sorensen’s suburban Denver home. Police said he told investigators that he didn’t want to return the piece, worth $75,000, because he didn’t want to get in trouble.

Police say Brook and Parnell dumped the three cattails in a cornfield about 40 miles east of Denver about two weeks after the August theft. By the time investigators found the pieces, they had been destroyed, likely by a crop-cutting machine.

All the suspects but Sorensen have been released on bond. The public defender’s office, which is representing him, declined to comment on the allegations. None of the others had lawyers listed in court documents and could not be reached by phone or social media.

Brook and Parnell have been charged with theft, criminal mischief and tampering with evidence, while Sorensen and Bellamy are charged only with theft.

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