Search for vandal who cut down 23 trees in San Jose underway

Image 1 of 3

It's being called a bizarre and unusual crime neighbors have never seen before. The search is on for the vandal who severed nearly two dozen trees that were part of a beautification project in San Jose.
Rhonda Berry, CEO of the "Our City Forest,' has spent 25 years planting trees in San Jose. She's dealt with vandalism on one or two trees but nothing prepared her for what she saw on Meridian avenue on the outskirts of Willow Glen.

"It was shocking," said Berry. "It was stunning. It took me awhile to process."

Twenty-three trees, the majority of them are Chinese fringe, sawed off at the trunk left hanging in the crossbars. A neighbor walking discovered them Friday morning. Berry believes the vandalism happened overnight and the culprit was armed with an electric saw.

"Here's something beautiful that should be celebrated and that we should be enjoying," said Berry. "Not even the trees can't seem to hold their own when there is a mean heart."

Volunteers spent hours planting the trees for Earth Day last April. The city invested thousands of dollars to maintain them as the trees help filter air and absorb noise on the major thoroughfare. Now, their once soft leaves are brittle and dead.

The nonprofit held a candlelight vigil for them and posted signs that read "this tree was murdered." Neighbors call the crime disappointing.

"I don't understand who would do something like that," said Vince D'Arpino of San Jose. "Why would anyone do that?"

"You can see we have manicured lawns, we have beautiful homes, so why anyone would come into this neighborhood and destroy it," said Justine Murphey of San Jose. "I doesn't make any sense to me."

So far, there are no leads. The nonprofit is now turning to neighbors for surveillance video for clues and vow to replant the trees sometime next Fall.