Two Ohio siblings accused of felling a 250-year-old walnut tree are facing felony charges.
Todd Jones and Laurel Hoffman said they believed the tree was part of Jones’ property.
Prosecutors said the tree stump was about eight feet outside their property line.
Two Ohio siblings have been charged with theft after they felled a centuries-old black walnut tree and arranged for it to be felled and sold for lumber, Cleveland officials said Friday.
The tree was one of the largest of its kind in the state, officials said, according to Cleveland.com.
Todd Jones, 56, and Laurel Hoffman, 54, are accused of felling the tree, believed to be over 250 years old, in September last year. Jones claimed the tree was part of his property in Strongsville, a suburb about 16 miles outside of Cleveland.
Prosecutors charged Jones and Hoffman, arguing that the tree was not on his property. Instead, they said the tree grows in an area owned by Cleveland Metroparks, which oversees 24,000 acres of nature preserves in the Greater Cleveland area.
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Charging documents say the stump was about eight feet outside their property line.
Both Hoffman and Jones were charged on December 29, each receiving one count of theft by deception and tampering. Both charges are felonies that carry a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison, Cuyahoga County District Attorney Michael O’Malley’s office said, according to The New York Times.
“Given our urban environment and the threats to healthy tree growth, it is very rare to find a black walnut tree of this size,” Cleveland Metroparks spokeswoman Jacqueline Gerling told The Times.
Officials said Jones initially blamed his sister, then became defensive when authorities told him that his stepmother, who lives in the house near the tree, had previously told them that he and his sister had shot him, NBC News reported.
The tree was worth at least $28,800, the Cleveland Metroparks Police Department said. Replacing the tree would cost over $100,000.
“It’s not the crime of the century,” Jones told police, The Times reported.
Both Jones and Hoffman have said they don’t think they should face charges.
“It’s so ridiculous that they’re doing this,” Jones said in an interview with Cleveland.com. “It’s insane. There was no bad intention.”
Jennifer Grieser, director of natural resources for Cleveland Metroparks, said in September last year she was walking through a preserve when she discovered a “freshly cut” stump where the tree once stood, according to the Times.
“We will not ignore people who enter park property and illegally cut down irreplaceable trees for profit,” O’Malley said, according to the Times.
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