WJTV News Channel 12 - Authorities investigate logging equipment vandalism

Authorities investigate logging equipment vandalism

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Allegations of arson swirl through two communities after heavy equipment at two logging companies is destroyed by suspected vandalism.

The Lawrence County Sheriff's Department is calling for information about what's shown in a series of photos released on Friday which shows four pieces of equipment worth close to $1 million - destroyed.

The gear belongs to Stewart Timber. It's owner is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

While that happened in last Sunday afternoon, just off of Highway 84 on Ferguson Mill Road - another similar case is also under investigation.

That case is also on Highway 84, 3 miles east of the city of Washington.

Lawrence County authorities said they have not found evidence to connect the cases.

Patten Logging, a company based in Lorman, has been in business for 25 years - cutting down trees.

But now it's their company that's been cut down.

"And I had just got out of this truck on Thursday night. I was going to come in that Friday morning and load up a load of logs sitting right over there now. I called my brother as soon as I got around the curve there," Ernest Patten, partial owner, said.

"That was about the first time he ever beat me to work and he told me 'all the equipment burnt up'. I said 'man, I know you got to be joking'," Aaron Patten, partial owner, said.

"And that [dozer] was still smoking. And I noticed it was sitting low on the ground in the back. And when I came back around the skidder was dropped down too," Ernest Patten said.

The giant tires, worth $3,000 each, were popping in the heat of diesel fueled flames, Ernest Patten said.

"The machine was in excellent condition but now it's just totaled out," Aaron Patten said.

The group says about $100,000 in damage has been done.

"The tree cutter, the skidder, two trucks, and burnt the dozer. the seat off the dozer," Ernest Patten said.

The company does have insurance on the equipment but the wait is setting them back on their timeline.

Plus the suspected reasoning behind this possible arson is even more disturbing, Ernest Patten said.

"Well, we were cutting the timber off for 'New Hope Missionary Baptist Church'," Ernest Patten said.

"Claim there supposed to be putting some low income housing here," Ernest Patten said.

"The church said they have had several different threats to them to but nobody ever said nothing to us down in here. We just got caught in the middle," Aaron Patten said.

"They is in there own hood out here and I guess it would bring too much company too close to them. All I can see," Ernest Patten said.

They say their insurance adjuster is coming out on Monday, and they plan to finish the logging job. The entire process, however, is frustrating, Ernest Patten said.

"No arrests have been made and everything seems to be dragging on. And we're just not working. This was our livelihood here," Ernest Patten said.

"I said it'd just about put you out of business. If I didn't have insurance I would be," Aaron Patten said.
    
Adams County authorities could not be reached for comment about this case as of Saturday night.

No suspects have been identified in either case.

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