Two accused in vandalism of Botanical Gardens

Damage to facility's castle estimated at several thousand dollars

Elizabeth Neubauer, operations manager for the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens, 655 Struthers Ave., looks at the damage in the castle at the gardens on Monday. The building was trashed after a break-in.

Two men suspected of causing thousands of dollars in damage at Western Colorado Botanical Gardens were arrested Monday after an officer saw the men waving lighted signal flares they had allegedly stolen from a Union Pacific train, according to Grand Junction police.

Bradley Dodd, 29, and Benjamin Levanduski, 20, both transients, were booked into the Mesa County Jail on Monday evening on suspicion of a host of charges, including theft, criminal mischief and felony disrupting public transportation after they were contacted by an officer in front of the Union Pacific Railroad company’s depot in downtown Grand Junction, police spokeswoman Kate Porras said.

Porras said an officer observed the pair waving flares, which were lit, believed to have been stolen from a parked train downtown. Officers were called out on the train incident around 11:30 a.m.

Arrest affidavits for Dodd and Levanduski were not available Monday evening.

Porras said the men matched descriptions of vandalism suspects seen around 9 a.m. walking away from Western Colorado Botanical Gardens, 655 Struthers Ave. Porras said the men had property reported stolen from Botanical Gardens, but she declined to specify the property.

Dana Hobika, Botanical Gardens’ executive director, spent most of Monday assessing damage at the facility’s castle, a decade-old building reserved for children’s birthday parties and other youth events.

“I can’t think of anything they missed,” Hobika said.

The vandals apparently gained access by kicking in doors, while art supplies stored inside were smeared across the walls, floors and drapes, aside from other damage. Porras said someone defecated just outside the building.

“The sad thing is we’ve invested so much in security,” Hobika said, noting tens of thousands of dollars spent on the installation of flood lights for the parking lot, among other expenses.

Hobika said she hopes the castle will be closed “no more than a month,” while damage was expected to tally several thousand dollars.


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