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Friday, February 26, 2016 4:07 am

Man accused in theft of $6,000 doors at zoo

Jeff Wiehe | The Journal Gazette

They were custom-made and valued at $6,000. 

But four steel doors designed to be installed into the new aviary at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo Australian Adventure went missing from a site just outside the fence of the zoo overnight this month, only to turn up in a scrap heap. 

Now, a man accused of stealing the doors before trying to cash in by selling them for scrap to a metal company where they were found is facing a felony charge, and newly released court documents show exactly how much he received for his efforts: $11.50.  

Allen County prosecutors formally charged 53-year-old Arthur Lee Johnson Jr. with one felony count of theft Thursday. 

Johnson is accused of taking the doors overnight between Feb. 11 and Feb. 12, according to Allen Superior Court documents. A site supervisor for Hagerman Construction, which is overseeing the renovation project at the zoo, alerted a company called MetalX of the theft as soon as the doors were discovered missing.

MetalX officials told the supervisor that the doors had been presented as scrap at 8:30 a.m. that very morning, court documents said. 

Damaged but possibly repairable, the doors were located in a steel scrap pile. 

Johnson was known to those working at MetalX because of previous transactions, court documents said. Fort Wayne police found him Saturday and asked him about the doors and whether he really sold them for less than $12. 

He waived his rights, and, speaking with an officer, Johnson admitted to taking the doors without permission and selling them for scrap at MetalX. 

Johnson called it a "bonehead move," the officer wrote in court documents. 

Once arrested, Johnson posted a $2,500 bond to get out of Allen County Jail. 

jeffwiehe@jg.net