WWII tree apology false and a third boy arrested
A letter of apology from one of those responsible for destroying the WWII tree in Ochoco Creek Park that was published last week was apparently not what it appearedAdd another name to the list of juveniles accused of vandalizing the WWII memorial tree at the World War II/Memorial in Ochoco Creek Park and forget the letter of apology that was published last week.
Colin Eugene Dickson, a 16-year-old resident of Dallas, Oregon, has been arrested and faces charges of criminal mischief. Arrested earlier were 16-year-old Teddy James Hussey and Bradley Eugene Marquez, 17. Hussey and Marquez were also charged with abuse of a venerated object.
The charges stem from the destruction of at least one of the two "Dwight D. Eisenhower" Green Ash Trees that had been ceremoniously dedicated in honor of the 16 million soldiers in uniform and millions of others who supported them during the war. The first tree was planted on Memorial Day as part of the nationwide "Operation Silent Witness" program. A short time later that tree was destroyed.
Local businessmen came forth with a second tree to replace the first, having it shipped in from Texas. A few days later that tree was also cut down.
According to the police investigation, the first tree was trashed by Dickson and Hussey. Marquez did not participate in that incident. However, later in the month, after the destroyed tree had been replaced Hussey and Marquez returned and demolished the second tree.
In a letter of apology published in this newspaper last week, Marquez stated that he had not known the tree was a memorial. "When I found out it was a memorial tree a sickness in my stomach overwhelmed me."
District Attorney Gary Williams' reaction was quick. It is "for certain that the letter contains false claims and false statements and perhaps a false statement of apology."
The falsehoods came to light Friday when Police Lt. Eric Bush interviewed Marquez. At that time the young offender confessed to the Prineville police officer that he lied in taking responsibility for vandalizing the first tree. In answer to Bush's question about why he would confess to such a thing, Marquez told him that it had been Colin Dickson "who is like a brother and I didn't want him to get into trouble."
Williams summed it up: "Assuming Colin Dickson's statement to the police is accurate, and Marquez's final statement is accurate, it was Colin and Hussey who broke the first tree and Marquez and Hussey who chopped down the second tree."
The crimes the three boys are charged with have been moved out of the felony range and into being misdemeanors. Originally, based on the perceived value of the trees, it was expected that the criminal mischief charge would be first degree. Williams said that the preliminary value on the first tree is under $750 and the value of the second tree is right at $750. Until the value of the individual trees is determined, the charges will be second degree criminal mischief.
Following Friday's interviews, Hussey and Marquez were cited and released. The three will appear in court later this week for arraignment.