Neighbors and church members were stunned as thieves cut down and stole a tree at Mount Vernon Unitarian Church.
The thieves came overnight to cut down a 60 foot tall Paulownia tree that grew along the Memorial Walk at Mount Vernon Unitarian Church . The tree was removed to the base of the trunk then hauled down a hill through a neighbor's property to a truck on Mason Hill Drive.
The next morning a custodian noticed that a branch from one of the neighbor's trees had fallen and their fence had collapsed. He alerted Grounds Chair Alvin Macomber and when Macomber went to investigate the broken fence the theft was discovered.
"I can't imagine someone coming and stealing our tree." Macomber said. The Paulownia was at the center of Compass Circle of the Memorial Walks and was considered a sacred site among neighbors and church members for contemplation and spiritual reflection. "We're just afraid that the suspects are still in the area and may try to steal from others."
Police believe it would have taken a crew of at least two people with a chainsaw working for several hours to remove the tree. "We have several neighbors and church members who saw the theft as it occurred without realizing what was happening in front of them," Macomber said, "We are passing on all of their information to the police."
Paulownia trees are considered highly valuable for their wood which is light, air curable, fire resistant and water repellent, Paulownia's also resist warping, twisting and cracking. Police believe whoever stole the tree would have known this and it would have motivated the theft.
Church members are not giving up the search for their beloved Paulownia. "We're still looking," Macomber said, "We created a flyer and we've gotten a lot of responses. We're giving the police department all the information we've collected."
"It's inconceivable and unbelievable. It's very disturbing for all of us at the church," Macomber stated, "So many people are upset about the loss of the tree. They keep walking and driving by to see if it's really true."
Anyone who has information about this theft call the church at 703-765-5950 extension 103, or contact Officer John S. Williams of the Mount Vernon Police at 703-360-5029.
<b> Party Depot Robbed
</b> A suspect is still at large after robbing a Party Depot store on Richmond Highway according to Fairfax County police. A man entered the store at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 8, and after briefly walking through the aisles he approached the checkout counter. He then announced that a robbery was taking place and that he had a gun. The cashier gave the man the money out of the register and he fled the store.
The suspect is described as an African American man between 21 and 30 years old and approximately 5 feet 5 inches tall. He was wearing a heavy, navy blue winter coat with a hood and a gray hooded sweatshirt. He was also wearing gloves and a mask.
Anyone with information about this crime or this suspect should call the police at 703-691-2131.
<1b> Vanessa Becknell