Police arrest man in connection with rash of tree vandalism

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WEST JORDAN — Police have arrested a man who they say vandalized at least some of the more than 80 trees damaged or destroyed in West Jordan and South Jordan since late July.

Wesley James Pettis, 24, was arrested for investigation of felony criminal mischief after someone reported a man acting suspiciously Sunday night at Willow Cove Apartments, 9300 S. Redwood Road, West Jordan police said.

An officer arrived shortly after 10:20 p.m., contacted Pettis and noticed he looked like the person police were seeking in the vandalism case, said West Jordan Police Lt. Richard Bell. After interviewing Pettis, police believed they could definitively link him to damaging four trees, all of them in West Jordan, Bell said, and "he is definitely a suspect in the entire string of tree vandalisms."

Since July 24, more than 60 trees have been vandalized or destroyed along 2200 West between 7800 South and 9000 South, causing roughly $40,000 in damage. Some of those trees were in Veterans Memorial Park.

Last week, 23 trees worth about $7,000 combined were targeted near 3200 West and 9800 South, according to police.

A Salt Lake County Jail report says Pettis, of West Jordan, "admitted … he intentionally damaged at least four trees" worth about $750 each.

"(Pettis) stated the trees hurt him first," the jail report states. "He said the branches were (too) low and hurting them, so he would break them. While breaking the branches it would hurt his hands, so he damaged them more."

Bell said Pettis' "substance abuse issues and perhaps some mental health issues" likely contributed to the alleged vandalism.

Some tree branches were discovered in Pettis' car, Bell added. Pettis also had cuts on his arms that "could be consistent with somebody cutting branches," according to the lieutenant.

South Jordan and West Jordan police also offered rewards last week for information leading to an arrest in this case. Tips that poured in "were crucial in identifying and locating this suspect," Bell said.

"This, for whatever reason, kind of struck a nerve with a lot of people," he said. "We had a lot of volunteers come forward (wanting) to fix the problem."

Some community volunteers plan to plant replacement trees on Nov. 5. Bell said anyone interested in participating can call West Jordan city spokeswoman Kim Wells at 801-569-5163.

Court records show Pettis was charged June 6 in West Jordan Justice Court with use or possession of drug paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor. He was scheduled to attend a hearing in that case Monday.

Pettis was also charged Aug. 16 in Taylorsville Justice Court with intoxication, a class C misdemeanor. He has no other criminal history in Utah as an adult, according to court records.

Police are investigating whether others are responsible for the damaged or destroyed trees, but there's "no information at this point to indicate that," Bell said.

Anyone with further information about the case can call West Jordan police at 801-840-4000.


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Ben Lockhart


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