News Column

Suspects in museum's model-dinosaur theft turn themselves in

July 17, 2014

By Andrew Kenney, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

July 17--RALEIGH -- A man and woman, both 21, turned themselves over to N.C. State Capitol Police on Thursday in the case of the missing model dinosaur.

Logan Todd Ritchey, 21, of Raleigh, and Alyssa Ann LaVacca, 21, of Holly Springs both are charged with a felony count of the theft or destruction of the public property of a museum or a library and, additionally, conspiracy to commit felony larceny, county records state.

Ritchey was held Thursday at the Wake County Detention Center on a $2,000 secured bond, while LaVacca was released on an unsecured bond on Thursday afternoon, according to police.

Capitol police report that all of the missing items, including a replica of a baby duck-billed dinosaur, have been recovered.

An unidentified male deposited a bag with the replica dinosaur at the rear service entrance of the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences on Wednesday night, after police circulated surveillance footage of the suspected crime, according to the capitol police force.

The two suspects voluntarily surrendered at the State Capitol Police Department on Thursday morning, and each was cooperative with the investigation, according to police.

Investigators conferred with the Wake County District Attorney's Office before the police force issued the warrants for Ritchey and LaVacca.

"I doubt these two individuals realized the seriousness of tampering with artifacts and exhibits in a public museum," State Capitol Police Chief Glen Allen said in a written release. The publication of security-camera footage of the incident was instrumental in "bringing the case to fruition," according to the release.

Two-stop crime spree

Police suspect LaVacca and Ritchey committed crimes at both the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences and the N.C. Museum of History on Monday.

First, according to police, they may have stripped the N.C. Museum of History of exhibit props including fake cabbage, lettuce, doilies and an actual antique medicine bottle. Those items, worth less than a combined $1,000, were found at the neighboring natural-science museum.

Later in the day, according to police, the pair took a small model Edmonotosaurus from a third-floor exhibit in the science museum.

Video from the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences appears to show Ritchey hopping a short wall and taking the roughly foot-long resin model from a replica nest.

He escaped the exhibit in just under a minute, clutching the dinosaur, then stuffed it into his female companion's big, colorful bag, according to the video footage.

He appeared to give her a kiss or whisper in her ear as they walked away.

The custom-made dinosaur model is valued at $10,000, based on the price the museum paid to have it produced. The museum commissioned the models as its current building opened about 14 years ago, according to museum spokesman Jon Pishney.

"It's a custom-made, scientifically accurate, museum-quality model," Pishney said on Wednesday. "We're basing this on what it cost us to have built initially."

Kenney: 919-829-4870; Twitter: @KenneyNC


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Source: News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)

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