Seattle police on Monday arrested a 47-year-old man who is the alleged mastermind behind the theft of two ornamental bronze gates that stood for a generation at the entrance to the Washington State Arboretum in Seattle’s Madison Valley.
The man made his first court appearance Tuesday afternoon, and a judge found probable cause that he committed the alleged crimes of first-degree trafficking in stolen property and first-degree possession of stolen property, according to a spokesman for King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. The state requested the man be held in lieu of $20,000 bail but the judge ordered him released from jail on personal recognizance, the spokesman said. The man is next to appear in court on Thursday.
The gates, which were commissioned in 1971 and designed by internationally renowned sculptor George Tsutakawa, were reported stolen March 19 after gardeners arrived for work and discovered the gates missing and bolt cutters on the ground, Ray Larson, curator of living collections at the University of Washington Botanic Gardens, told The Seattle Times last month. Thieves also stole copper downspouts from the visitors center.
A detective assigned to the case learned that two suspects attempted to sell the gates and downspouts to a recycling center on March 20, but the business refused to buy them, according to police.
During the investigation, police questioned a man who admitted he drove the suspect to the recycling center and later dropped him off at a homeless encampment in the 4100 block of First Avenue South, says the probable-cause statement outlining the police case against the 47-year-old. Two detectives went to the encampment, where they found remnants of one gate under a box truck, the statement says.
Police have also located the second gate, which was largely intact, though it was not clear Tuesday where that gate was found.
According to the statement, the gates had an appraised value of $92,500.
The man who drove the suspect was released after his interview with detectives, according to police spokesman Mark Jamieson.
A South Precinct officer was on patrol Monday when he spotted the suspect, whom he recognized from previous contacts, near First Avenue South and South Orcas Street, police said. The officer called for backup and police found the man hiding in a parked recreational vehicle.
The suspect was arrested a mile south of the homeless encampment where the gate parts were found.