News Column

Suspects in science museum's dinosaur heist turn themselves in

July 18, 2014

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



July 18--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, are both 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 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.

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

Investigators conferred with the Wake County District Attorney's Office before police 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.

Ken Ritchey, father of Logan Ritchey, had no comment on the case but said of his son: "I love my son, and he is an intelligent, inquisitive guy. We all make mistakes."

A woman who answered the phone at Alyssa Lavacca's listed residence declined to comment.

"This is her business, so you'll have to wait and talk with her," she said before hanging up.

Two-stop crime spree?

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

First, according to police, they may have stripped the 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 sciences 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 science museum appeared to show Ritchey hopping over 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, the video footage appeared to show.

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

Custom-made model

The custom-made dinosaur model is valued at $10,000, based on the price the museum paid to have it produced. The museum commissioned 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 Wednesday. "We're basing this on what it cost us to have built initially."

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

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(c)2014 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

Visit The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) at www.newsobserver.com

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Source: News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)


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