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Ohio siblings face felony charges after felling 250-year-old walnut tree

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Ohio siblings face felony charges after felling 250-year-old walnut tree

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Two Ohio siblings have been charged with theft after they arranged to cut down a tree believed to be over 250 years old that was on city property, officials said Friday.

An illegally felled black walnut tree estimated to be over two centuries old.Cleveland Metroparks PD

Todd Jones, 56, and Laurel Hoffman, 54, allegedly illegally felled the century-old black walnut tree in the Cleveland suburb of Strongsville in September 2021 to sell it for lumber, according to a Cleveland Metroparks police report.

Jones and Hoffman’s mother-in-law, Debra Jones, lives in the house near where the tree was felled, on the border of Mill Stream Run Reservation, where adjacent property was recently acquired by Cleveland Metroparks.

Debra Jones is the widow of the siblings’ father, Robert A. Jones, and has not been charged with a crime.

In remarks to police, Jones initially denied having anything to do with the destruction of the tree and said his sister may have been to blame.

Jones reportedly became ‘defensive’ after an officer told him their records showed his stepmother had already shown them the tree stump and admitted he and his sister had arranged for it to be cut down and sold for wood.

The family said they believe the tree was on their property, but charging documents said a police investigation found the center of the 5.5-foot-wide tree stump was at 7.5 feet outside their property.

Further investigation revealed that the shaft was worth $28,814.74 and that it would cost $102,909.77 to replace.

Hoffman and Jones were charged Dec. 29 with one count each of theft by deception and forgery, according to court documents.

Hoffman, in remarks to Cleveland.com, said, “It’s up to us. I just don’t understand any of this.”

“It’s so ridiculous that they’re doing this,” Jones told the news site. “It’s insane. There was no bad intention.”

The tree was located in the nature preserve and its trunk measured nearly six feet in diameter, making it one of the oldest in the state of Buckeye, according to Metroparks spokeswoman Jacqueline Gerling.

“We suspect the tree may have been over 250 years old. Given our urban environment and the threats to healthy tree growth, it is very rare to find a black walnut of this size,” wrote Gerling in an email to NBC News.

Todd Jones and Laurel Hoffman reportedly felled the black walnut tree in September 2021.Cleveland Metroparks PD

The Cleveland Metroparks Police Department oversees more than 24,000 acres of land, including the reservation adjacent to the Jones home.

The United States Department of Agriculture says black walnut trees are “one of the rarest and most coveted native hardwoods” and have been heavily logged.

Hoffman’s attorney, Christina Brueck, did not immediately respond to an NBC News request for comment. Jones did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The siblings are due in court on January 20.

In July, a California couple was fined $18,000 for destroying 36 Joshua Trees, protected as candidates under the California Endangered Species Act.

Earlier last year, an Arkansas man pleaded guilty to cutting down 27 trees in the Mark Twain National Forest.

An NBC News investigation in July found that the world’s largest furniture retailer, Ikea, may have sold children’s furniture made from illegally felled Russian pine.

Ohio siblings face felony charges after felling 250-year-old walnut tree

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