Ohio Siblings Face Prison Time for Chopping Down Tree Near Their Property

by Quentin Blount
Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images

It’s probably not a good idea to go chopping down trees that don’t belong to you. A pair of Ohio siblings are finding that out the hard way.

That’s right — Ohio residents Todd Jones and his sister, Laurel Hoffman, are being charged with grand theft. What did they do you ask? They decided to chop down a black walnut tree located near their property just outside of Cleveland, per The New York Times.

Authorities were notified back in September after a parks director noticed that a black walnut tree had been cut down to a stump. When police spoke to nearby residents, they were informed that a man by the name of Todd Jones had the tree cut up and sold for lumber.

Jones, 56, made the following statement to authorities after everything went down.

“It’s not the crime of the century,” he said.

But police say the tree in question was not on his property. Instead, it belonged to Cleveland Metroparks. According to Jacqueline Gerling, a spokeswoman for the public agency, the tree in question could have been more than 250 years old. She also revealed that this particular tree was worth $28,000 at the very least.

“Given our urban setting and the treats to healthy tree growth, it is very uncommon to find a black walnut of this size,” Gerling said.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Wants to Put Ohio Siblings Behind Bars

Sure, while this may not be the crime of the century, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, Michael O’Malley, doesn’t want the Ohio siblings to go unpunished. He takes his job seriously when it comes to protecting the area’s parks and recreation areas.

“We will not ignore people trespassing onto park property and illegally cutting down irreplaceable trees for profit,” O’Malley said.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Mr. O’Malley also revealed that both Mr. Jones and Ms. Hoffman were being charged with falsification. Those felonies on their own can carry up to an 18-month prison sentence.

If you ask Jones, however, he doesn’t agree with the charges being handed down. Both Ohio siblings say they believed that the tree was inside of the family’s property line.

“This is so ridiculous that they’re doing this,” Jones said in an interview with Cleveland.com. “This is insane. There was no ill intent.”

For all of you Outsiders at home who don’t know, black walnut trees can grow to be 70 feet tall. They are widely regarded as the best lumber choice for the production of furniture, trim, gunstocks, and more. Unfortunately, the tree cut down in this scenario was “extremely” large and uncommon across the park district.

Jones later added that he was the sole person responsible, and asked law enforcement to drop the charges against his sister.

“Nothing was done maliciously,” he continued, adding that the charges seemed “pretty excessive for a tree.”