By Ashley Powers
Henderson, NV (December 4, 2007)- Cloaked by darkness, a saw tucked under his jacket, Douglas Hoffman skulked through suburbia, methodically killing trees. He severed some. Others he sliced just enough so they would slowly die. In a year’s time, authorities said, he wiped out more than 500 trees near an upscale retirement community just south of Las Vegas. Greenery, he had complained to a homeowners’ committee, was blocking his view of the Strip.
In November, a jury convicted Hoffman, 60, on 10 charges in the destruction of $250,000 worth of mesquite and Texas honey trees. He could get up to 35 years in prison.
Five years ago, Hoffman and his wife, Debbie, bought a 1,632-square-foot home in Sun City Anthem, a retirement community. The neighborhood was in its infancy when they moved into their home, with a back deck that overlooked the peaks rimming the valley and the Strip. Soon the trees, some of which had grown 8 feet tall, marred the couple’s view. The Hoffmans asked if they could swap them out for shrubs but were told no. In October 2004, the tops of about 60 nearby trees were lopped off.
“We thought it was a fluke thing, maybe teenagers,” said Sasha Jackowich, a spokeswoman for the community’s developer, Pulte Homes. Over the next year, even more trees- some worth $1,450 apiece- were felled. The developer hired a private security firm. Upset residents posted photos of the carnage online, and the community association offered a $10,000 reward for the tree-slasher’s capture.
On Nov. 26, 2005, just after midnight, William Edwards was driving to his home when he noticed a freshly cut tree- and saw someone disappear into the dark. A retired sheriff’s deputy, Edwards grabbed an eight-iron from his trunk and gave chase, according to court testimony. Edwards caught up with Hoffman. Yes, he told Edwards, he lived in Sun City. No, he hadn’t seen anyone messing with trees. Edwards patted Hoffman down. He found a single-blade saw.
Authorities scoured the area where Hoffman was apprehended and counted dozens of slashed trees. When they searched his home, Hoffman’s wife told them that her husband had whacked some branches to get a better view of the Strip. The foliage slaughter that followed was Hoffman’s plan to cover up his initial chopping, Deputy District Atty. Josh Tomsheck said.
Hoffman, who is being held without bail, could not be reached for comment. His wife described him as a caring person who had grown more isolated in recent years because of numerous ailments. His hip replacements- along with back, heart and prostate problems- would have made it impossible for him to run around sawing down trees, she said. The night he was arrested, his wife said, he was racked with pain and had gone for a stroll in hopes of easing it. The saw was something he had scooped up on the side of the road, she said. Jurors didn’t buy it, convicting Hoffman of malicious destruction of trees. His attorney plans to ask for probation. “It’s like you can murder someone and it’s OK,” Hoffman’s wife said, “but you’re accused of killing trees and it’s like, execute him.”
For the full article, visit the Los Angeles Times.