Steven Trew accused of trying to free all the Wonder Gardens animals in Bonita Springs

9:30 AM, Apr 17, 2013   |    comments
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Bonita Springs, Florida (News-Press) -- It's just one more tale in the long history of the Everglades Wonder Gardens.

A Bonita Springs man -- frustrated the historic site is closing soon -- broke into the zoo, cut the locks on almost every cage and set many animals free sometime early Monday morning.

The Lee County Sheriff's Office arrested Steven Trew, 58, for burglary and damage to the property. Several of the animals broke free but didn't leave the grounds. One deer, however, was struck by a motorcycle and killed on Imperial Parkway. One deer was found after several hours.

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The rest of the creatures never left the zoo property and were returned to their cages by zoo staff, according to owner David Piper.

Eleven animal cages were cut, and the wood that held the locking mechanism on the back north gate was sawed. The damage to the property and loss of the deer is estimated at $1,400, according to the sheriff's office.

Employee Jack Wollman said he arrived at the Everglades Wonder Gardens at 5 a.m. Monday and found the back gate sawed open. When he got inside he noticed deer, pigs and birds were out of their cages.

"My first thought was the mountain lion because she is the most dangerous animal in here," Wollman said. "Luckily none of the dangerous animals got out. The mountain lion cage was wide open, but she never left."

Wollman said he called Piper and then went to investigate.

"It was pitch black," Wollman said. "Then I heard the flamingos, and when you hear flamingos you know someone is there. I saw a guy by the barn area and chased him to the parking lot. He tried to take off on his bike. When I got near him he started swinging at me. I wasn't going to let him get away. I just tackled him."

Wollman held Trew until deputies arrived.

"He heard we were closing, and he wanted to set the animals free," Wollman said. "What kind of an idiot would let a mountain lion out right in the middle of Bonita Springs?"

Surveillance footage showed Trew entering the facility, carrying bolt cutters, according to the sheriff's office.

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