Fresno Discovery Center feels outpouring of support

FRESNO, Calif.

A python is still missing from Fresno's Discovery Center. But the donations after last week's break-in keep pouring in.

Devon Madaj pleaded "no contest" to a misdemeanor in 2011 for smashing out windows at a local funeral home.

In addition to the theft charges for the Discovery Center break-in, he's also facing charges for obstructing an officer last year. And despite the trouble the Discovery Center says he caused, the outcome is the best thing to happen to the center in a long time.

Fresno's Discovery Center is once again filled with inquisitive young minds. Since this break-in and theft, which was caught on camera, more than a dozen animals have been donated to the non-profit center.

"I couldn't have asked for anything better. This is a wonderful outcome. I mean, I could have asked for the python to come back, but I still haven't given up," said Mary Ellen Wright of the Discovery Center. "We've gotten two snakes. About 10 tarantulas, a scorpion, we have more snakes coming tomorrow. We've been offered an iguana."

The enclosures now have all the glass replaced and many of the original, and the donated snakes and lizards, are resting in their comfortable habitats.

"Lot of people have been coming out, giving us words of support, been supporting us through the museum and the park in general. It's been great," said Ian Goudelock with the Discovery Center.

Fresno police say 21-year-old Devon Madej shattered a window with a cinder block. Then broke into several enclosures in the reptile room and stole three snakes and a large lizard.

The outpouring since is bringing renewed interest in the Discovery Center Museum.

"This has brought a lot of attention to the center and we're getting lots more visitors, and that's fantastic," said Wright.

A security system is being installed in addition to the security cameras already in place. When the theft happened, the museum had only been open for four days, following a fire that nearly destroyed the museum in 2000.

Wright added, "I had lost my faith in humanity, and within a matter of 30 hours I was overwhelmed with the kindness of people."

Other animals are also scheduled to be donated and dropped off Thursday. The center says it's looking into how many more animals it can house, properly, before accepting too many.

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