Orange County, Florida – Teachers and staff returned to the Academy for Autism on Thursday to set up for the school year when they discovered that six bronze statues had been stolen from the schools fountain in the garden. The school suspects that the thief came through the gate overnight to steal the garden’s prized centerpieces. Staffers were sad about the robbery, especially Academy for Autism director Zulma Rivas-Detell who told WFTV9 last Friday:
“They haven’t even seen the fountain. The kids haven’t even been to this building yet. [The statues were] children dancing. Children with autism love to dance. It would have been great for them to see that as they first drove up that first day.”
Staff assume the statues were stolen to be sold for scrap which they have valued at approximately $15,000. They have called local scrap yards and filed a police report. Rivas-Detell said,
“We’re all struggling. Many parents, some of them have one job or no jobs, so they struggle, we struggle. We save every penny possible.”
When staff contacted scrap yards they made sure to pass along photos of the stolen statues.
WFTV9 reported that on Tuesday, an employee of Trademark Metal Recycling recalled seeing a man coming three times with bronze pieces. This lead to the arrest of 51-year-old Harrison Lewis. Lewis claims the statues belonged to a friend but the official affidavit states that the friend spotted the statues in the back of Lewis’s car on the way to the scrap yard.
Deputies say that Lewis received about $350 for the scrap. He has been charged with grand theft and dealing in stolen property.