They Chopped Down a Centuries-Old Tree. Now They Face Felony Charges.

They Chopped Down a Centuries-Previous Tree. Now They Face Felony Expenses.


Final September, Jennifer Grieser, a director at an company that oversees hundreds of acres of parks, nature preserves and trails in northeastern Ohio, was strolling via a reservation, checking on saplings, when she noticed the freshly minimize stump of a black walnut tree.

The police spoke to a close-by resident who mentioned her husband’s son had not too long ago employed a logging service to chop down the tree and promote it for lumber.

“It’s not the crime of the century,” the son, Todd Jones, 56, later instructed the authorities, in response to a police report.

However prosecutors charged Mr. Jones and his sister, Laurel Hoffman, 54, with grand theft, saying that the tree was not on his property in Strongsville, a suburb of Cleveland, as he claimed, however on property owned by Cleveland Metroparks, a public company that oversees 24,000 acres throughout the area, together with trails, golf programs and lakefront parks.

Jacqueline Gerling, a spokeswoman for Cleveland Metroparks, mentioned the tree may need been greater than 250 years outdated. It was value a minimum of $28,800, in response to the Cleveland Metroparks Police Division.

“Given our city setting and the threats to wholesome tree development, it is rather unusual to discover a black walnut of this dimension,” Ms. Gerling mentioned.

In a press release, Michael O’Malley, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, mentioned his workplace took severely its obligation to guard the regional park system.

“We won’t ignore individuals trespassing onto park property and illegally chopping down irreplaceable timber for revenue,” he mentioned.

Mr. Jones and Ms. Hoffman have been additionally charged with falsification. Each costs are felonies that carry a most sentence of 18 months in jail, a spokeswoman for Mr. O’Malley mentioned.

Ms. Hoffman and her lawyer, Christina Brueck, declined to remark. A person who answered a name to a quantity listed for Mr. Jones declined to remark. It was not clear on Thursday if he had a lawyer.

In an interview with Cleveland.com and The Plain Supplier, Mr. Jones and Ms. Hoffman each mentioned they believed the tree was contained in the household’s property line.

“That is so ridiculous that they’re doing this,” Mr. Jones mentioned of the costs. “That is insane. There was no ailing intent.”

The police mentioned the tree was a part of the Mill Stream Run Reservation, which abuts Mr. Jones’s property and is overseen by Cleveland Metroparks.

Ms. Grieser, the director of pure sources at Cleveland Metroparks, mentioned that when she discovered the stump, it was clear it had been “freshly minimize,” in response to the police report.

At the very least one of many not too long ago planted saplings that she was checking on on the time had been destroyed when the tree was minimize down. The cages that had been defending the saplings, which have been a part of a restoration venture, had been smashed, the report mentioned.

Mr. Jones took over the property a while after his father, Robert Jones, died in 2015, in response to the police report.

Robert Jones’s spouse, Debra Jones, transferred possession of the property to Todd Jones “as the results of a monetary hardship” that included $15,000 in tax liens, the report mentioned.

Ms. Jones, who had lived on the home for 22 years, nonetheless lives on the property, which is on the market, the police mentioned.

Ms. Jones instructed the police that Todd Jones deliberate to have the tree taken down so it may very well be bought for timber and assist the household repay the tax liens.

Black walnut timber can develop to as much as 70 ft tall and are identified for his or her fine-grained, chocolate-brown heartwood, which makes them the “final selection” for the manufacturing of furnishings, trim, gunstocks and high-quality veneer, in response to the Ohio Division of Pure Assets.

“This tree, particularly, was extraordinarily giant and in addition unusual throughout the park district,” the police mentioned of their report.

It took a logging firm three days to chop down the tree and take away it from the property, in response to the report. The corporate’s proprietor, who dealt straight with Ms. Hoffman, instructed the police he paid $2,000 for the tree, in response to the police report.

The proprietor mentioned Ms. Hoffman had instructed him that she owned the tree and the property, in response to the report.

A police investigator mentioned he reviewed property data, together with deeds and pictures taken by a surveyor supervisor with Cleveland Metroparks.

“The stump is kind of clearly on park district land,” the investigator wrote, in response to the police report. The tree that was felled was seven and a half ft from Mr. Jones’s property line, the investigator discovered.

The police mentioned they referred to as and texted Ms. Hoffman however she didn’t reply to their messages.

When the police first contacted Mr. Jones, he instructed them that he didn’t know something about who had eliminated the tree, in response to the report.

In subsequent interviews with investigators, Mr. Jones mentioned he had by no means seen a boundary survey of the property.

He instructed them that “it was all the time well-known that the tree was on his parcel of land,” in response to the police report.

Mr. Jones additionally requested the police to not cost his sister and mentioned he was solely answerable for what had occurred, the report mentioned.

“Nothing was finished maliciously,” he mentioned, in response to the report, including that the investigation appeared “fairly extreme for a tree.”



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