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Tree-Cutting Suspects Face Charges

Video surveillance from home theater business on Highway 20 captures the event.

Charges are pending against four suspects involved in an unusual crime...cutting down a 25-foot Bradford Pear tree and dragging it behind their pick-up truck down a busy highway on Thursday, June 2.

Video surveillance from a home theater business on Highway 20, west of downtown Cumming, captured the event (see here).

The video shows three people pulling into the parking lot of Southern Cinema Design in an older model white and red Ford F-150. A man, the driver, and two women passengers were met by a second man walking on foot.
 
Sgt. Bryan Zimbardi with the Cumming Police Department explains what happened next.

"They backed the truck in, chainsawed the tree, and they tied the tree to the pick-up truck with the length of just basic regular old rope. They drove out of the parking lot of Southern Cinema and tried to make a right hand turn into Sherwin Williams to get onto Woodland Drive."

As the suspects were turning onto Woodland Drive the trunk of the tree got stuck on a curb of Highway 20 and the rope snapped.

"So they left the tree laying across Highway 20 and they sped down Woodland Drive, in the process of driving away, they struck someone's cat and killed it," said Zimbardi.

The two men, Stanley Hendrix Jr., 39, and Raymond Anthony Solano, 30, are being charged with Reckless Conduct; one of the men will also be charged with Obstruction for Hindering An Investigation. The two women, Jennifer Word, 25, and Samantha Gail Hendrix, 21, are facing Party To A Crime charge. All are from Cumming.

Zimbardi told Cumming Patch why none of the charges pending include the tree cutting.

"This is probably the strangest part of the story," he said. "There's a piece of land that runs in between Southern Cinema and A & L Quickstop, about 8 feet wide, and this tree sits on that piece of property."

In order for the men to be charged with criminal damage to property, authorities have to prove the suspects did not have permission to cut the tree down.

"And one way to do that is to get in touch with the person who owns the tree," said Zimbardi.

Authorities have tried to locate and talk with the property owner, but have yet to get a hold of this person.

In a late Friday afternoon e-mail Sgt. Zimbardi wrote, "Warrants have been issued for the case, Forsyth County Warrant Division has been notified and will be actively searching for the suspects in question."

Jared Wallace, a sales and marketing manager with Southern Cinema Design, said while it's pretty hilarious to watch the video, it was obviously a dangerous situation.

"At the end of the day nobody was hurt," he said. "I'm sure you probably heard the people killed a poor little innocent kitty cat when they went down a residential road, that was unfortunate."

At this time the motive is unclear, but the police incident report states, "that during the course of the conversation between Solano and authorities, (Solano said) the owners of Southern Cinema Design paid him $75 to cut the tree down, but when he (Salono) realized it was stuck in the middle of the road, he did not want to get into trouble and left it there."

"We definitely didn't pay them or even ever discuss anything with them about removing the tree," said Wallace.

Southern Cinema Design does maintain the landscaping of where the tree once stood even though the tree sits on what Wallace described as "common area."

"We're pretty outraged," Wallace added. "We're going to have this tree replaced."

Kristen Berry June 10, 2011 at 10:27 PM
Good thing a child wasn't in their way.
Liz Kennedy (Editor) June 11, 2011 at 04:32 AM
Good point! Thanks for writing as much.

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