STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY
MARBLE FALLS — A business owner has offered a $5,000 reward as Marble Falls police sift through surveillance video that might help catch a suspect in a tree poisoning incident on private property.
The owners of Blair’s Western Wear, located in the 2500 block of U.S. 281, contacted the Marble Falls Police Department on July 19 after they realized a 15-foot live oak tree in the southwest corner of their business was dying and found a suspicious substance at its base.
“We noticed that the leaves were turning a different shade of color,” Todd Blair said. “We looked at the bottom of it and noticed some substance poured on the bottom of it.
Preliminary analysis revealed some kind of chemical substance.
“It was a perfectly healthy tree. It killed the tree plus several other plants in the area,” he said. “This is a person that is narcissistic and thinks they have a right to destroy other people’s property for personal gain or for jollies.”
The property owners planted the tree in 2001 in compliance with city code, which required business owners to include foliage within their property layout.
The Blairs said the tree is valued at $15,000; however, cleanup at the site and restoration could cost as much as $25,000.
“I’d like to find out who it is and go through the proper legal, civil channels,” Blair said.
Authorities said that, because of the value of the tree and the damage done, the suspect could face up to two years behind bars if convicted.
“There was something poured around the base of that tree. It’s property damage,” Marble Falls Police Capt. Glenn Hanson said. “The level of offense goes up with value.”
The charge is criminal mischief ($2,500 to $30,000), a state jail felony.
“(The investigators) are looking through some video, and there’s some physical evidence we collected that we’re sending to the lab for analysis,” Hanson said.
The Blairs said they want to maintain the foliage around their property not only for aesthetic and city code purposes but because the landscaping helps control the heat and erosion.
“You’re bringing part of the country back into the city or town,” Todd Blair said.
The Blairs said they will pay $5,000 for information that results in the arrest and conviction of a suspect.
Along with the reward, the business has added more security measures to their property.
“Everybody should pay close attention to what’s going on in their neighborhood,” Todd Blair said. “We’re doing different things. We’re watching.”
Anyone with information on the incident should contact the Marble Falls Police Department at (830) 693-3611 or through the department’s web page at marblefallspolice.com. People may also relay tips to this, or any crime, through the Hill Country Area Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-866-756-8477 or at hillcountryareacrimestoppers.com. Callers and tipsters can remain anonymous.