WWII memorial tree trashed again
- Bill Sheehy
- Central Oregonian - News
>Vandals have been charged with destroying the first tree planted in honor of those who fought in the Second World War, the investigation continues in the second incident
Two young Prineville boys have been charged with the heinous crime of abuse of a venerated object. The two have been accused of destroying the "Dwight D. Eisenhower" Green Ash Tree planed in the World War II/MIA Memorial in Ochoco Creek Park. Meanwhile people are being interviewed about the chopping down of the replacement tree.
In making the arrests just after midnight last Saturday, Prineville police additionally charged the two with first degree criminal mischief. Based on the monetary loss involved, the charge in this case is a felony crime. The police made the arrest following an investigation that determined the two had destroyed the tree planted at the memorial to honor those who served in the Second World War.
The vandals, according to the police report, were arrested at about 12:20 a.m. Saturday morning. Taken into custody were Bradley Eugene Marquez, 17, 3720 NW O'Neil Highway and Teddy James Hussey, 16, 1426 NW Pinecrest Dr. Both were turned over to the county juvenile department and then released to their parents.
The tree the two are accused of desecrating had been ceremoniously dedicated on Memorial Day. Following a news report on the vandalism, a number of local residents and business people offered to get a new tree. Sean Casey and Frank Price of Prineville Auto and Truck Center made arraignments and a new tree was transported to Prineville from Pennsylvania.
The official Eisenhower Green Ash Tree has been planted as WWII memorials nationwide as part of "Operation Silent Witness." The trees are in honor of the 16 million soldiers in uniform and millions of others who supported them during the war.
Lt. Eric Bush of the Prineville Police Department said this was the first time in his career that he has arrested someone on the charge of abuse of a venerated object. "I told the boys that they could expect to have every veteran in the community after them. They seemed remorseful, and said they realized it was a stupid thing to do. They admitted they had made a mistake."
Last week the second replacement tree, a healthy 12-foot tall ash, was laid to waste. This is the only reported case where two memorial trees have been senselessly destroyed.
Bush said he doesn't know whether the two boys had anything to do with the destruction of the second tree. The investigation is still open on that.
In hopes that someone knows something about the vandalism, a $250 reward is being offered to anyone with information that leads to an arrest and conviction. Crook County Parks and Recreation District manager Gary Ward said the reward is being funded by Parks and Rec.
"If we don't make an effort to corral them (the vandals)," Ward said, "then I think we are remiss. There was an $500 economic impact in replacing the tree and the emotional impact goes far beyond that."
Ward is hopeful the reward will get some response. Recalling the incident when two young boys went on a rampage of destruction in Ochoco Creek Park, nobody came forward until a reward was announced and within hours authorities had the names.
"I'm strongly motivated to catch this guy, and I'd like to have his picture and name blasted on the front page," Ward said.
Anyone with information on the person(s) responsible for the newest memorial tree being destroyed is asked to call Parks and Rec at 447-1209.