Two felony counts of first-degree property damage and two misdemeanor trespassing charges were filed Friday against the man who authorities say is responsible for cutting 160 trees at Washington’s riverfront trail in late February.
According to electronic court records, Perry D. Pecaut, of New Haven, was identified as the property owner. Park Board officials said he paid two laborers to cut trees from his property atop one of the river bluffs down the hillside toward the Missouri River. Pecaut was in the process of remodeling the home, according to law enforcement officials in February.
Precaut is scheduled to appear at 9 a.m. before 20th Associate Circuit Court Judge David L. Hoven on May 27.
The investigation began when the police department received a report Feb. 22 from Washington’s Parks and Recreation Department that someone had cut trees along the riverfront trail.
Washington Police Department Detective Sgt. Steve Sitzes said the original report came from a citizen who witnessed two people cutting down the trees Saturday, Feb. 20, and called the Washington Parks Department. The parks department received the report on Monday and forwarded it to the Washington Police Department.
Washington parks officials later described the cutting of the trees as a “football field-size of destruction.”
In a statement Monday, Sitzes said when interviewed by police, Pecaut “admitted his involvement in the cutting down of the trees.”
According to the probable cause statement, he also admitted after reading the property’s sight line agreement that he “was wrong and did not have the right to cut down the trees without permission.”
The police department reported that an independent tree contractor counted 123 trees that had been cut on city property. These trees were valued at $39,724.
An additional 37 trees were cut on property owned by Union Pacific Railroad. These trees were valued at $17,224.
There were various types of trees removed, including cottonwood, willow and maple trees, according to Sitzes.
As reported earlier this month, the city is in the process of seeking restitution from Pecaut. Under state law, the city could seek up to three times the value of the trees in damages for restitution. That figure, according to the value placed on the trees by the arborist in the police department’s report, is $119,171.
The trees on the railroad’s property could cost the property owner an additional $51,671.
Pecaut also could be ordered to pay for the cleanup effort, according to city officials.
If convicted, he also could be sentenced to up to four years in the Missouri Department of Corrections on each of the two felonies. He also could be ordered to spend up to one year in the county jail or to pay a $10,000 monetary fine. If convicted on the two trespassing charges, Pecaut could be sentenced to pay a $200 fine per charge.