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Officials probe tree killings near Bryant-Denny Stadium

TUSCALOOSA (AP) — Authorities suspect someone intentionally killed a row of live oak trees that stood between Bryant-Denny Stadium and a new luxury condominium development aimed at attracting University of Alabama fans as buyers.

Police are investigating, and an Alabama alumnus has posted a $5,000 reward for information.

On city property

Four live oaks on city property along 12th Street next to Evergreen Cemetery began dying about a year ago. A groundskeeper discovered holes drilled near the base of the trees, and city officials suspect the trees may have been poisoned.

The trees stand between The Legends, a new condominium development with prices starting around $360,000, and the university's football stadium. The condos' balconies face the stadium.

Police have not named any suspects. But Lt. Clay Gibbs said investigators have taken samples of the holes that were drilled in the trees and plan to have them analyzed to determine what, if anything, was used to kill the trees.

"It is being taken seriously," Gibbs told The Tuscaloosa News in a story Friday.

Killing the trees could either be a misdemeanor or a felony crime depending on their value. If the trees were worth at least $2,500, the crime could be classified felony criminal mischief, which is punishable by as long as 10 years in prison, said Glenda Gamble, the city attorney.

$5,000 reward

University alumnus Jon Drake, 58, said he would pay $5,000 for information that leads to someone spending at least three years in prison.

"I just think it's horrible," Drake said. "I think something ought to be done; some effort ought to be made to find out who did it."

Gamble said it is unlikely anyone convicted of killing the trees would serve three years in jail.

Drake said he also was willing to start a fund to replace the dead trees with the largest possible live oaks that can be planted along the road.

"You can't replace trees," Drake said. "It's greed and selfishness that set me off, that someone would come in and do that. It's a selfish and self-absorbed act."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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