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Disgruntled arborist chopped down Springdale trees he planted, police say

SPRINGDALE, Washington County — After a yearlong investigation, the former arborist for Springdale has been arrested and accused of cutting down more than a dozen trees around the town's hall and causing more than $10,000 in damage to town property in an apparent disgruntled rage.

Shane Curtis Lowery, 52, of Hurricane, was arrested Monday for investigation of criminal mischief. Another man, Steven James Stone, 41, of Hurricane, was charged Monday with criminal mischief, a second-degree felony, for allegedly driving Lowery that night.

The investigation began on March 12, 2017, when Springdale police discovered more than $10,000 in vandalism at several locations near the town hall, according to a search warrant affidavit filed a year ago in 5th District Court.

Among the damage found by police, 18 trees had been chopped down, the warrant states.

"It appeared a hatchet was used to take down the trees. The trees are within 50 yards of town hall. The trees were planted over the last two years during Arbor Day," police noted in the affidavit. "Also, on the grounds of town hall, a sprinkler valve junction box cover had been broken off. Inside the junction box, officers observed broken pipes and wires, making the system inoperable."

Further investigation found that "a black substance with the consistency of oil and an extremely foul smell" was splattered near a stairway leading to the police station and on the front door on the town hall. "The substance was later thought to be a scent known to be used for trapping and hunting. (Hunters use miscellaneous muscle meats mixed with urine etc.)," the warrant states.

Another substance, thought to be something called "Triple Strength Ambush Skunk Oil" was found in the air conditioning vents as well as on the pickleball courts north of the town hall, according to police.

"This oil is generally used to cover the scent of a hunter in order to get closer to game," the affidavit says.

Investigators immediately suspected Lowery, according to the warrant. He was hired by Springdale in 2008 and was responsible for maintaining the grounds throughout the town, including the town hall.

"Shane had extensive knowledge of the sprinkling systems and in all aspects of the grounds throughout the town. Shane personally planted the trees that were destroyed during the past two Arbor Days. Shane was the town arborist. Shane was fired in 2016 after testing positive for drugs," officers wrote in the warrant.

Police also say Lowery is an avid hunter. Investigators were able to find surveillance video from a local sporting goods story of Lowery purchasing skunk oil prior to the vandalism, according to the affidavit.

Although no criminal charges had been filed against Lowery as of Monday, Stone was formally charged in 5th District Court Monday with criminal mischief. Stone drove Lowery into Springdale the night of the vandalism, according to the charging documents.

Springdale police contacted Stone on Sunday and told him that investigators had surveillance video from nearby businesses showing his truck was there that night.

"I said, 'Did you help Shane rip any of that up?'" the officer wrote in his probable cause statement.

After pausing for a moment, Stone said, "You have me in a hard position now," the charges state. "He said, 'I didn't know what was going to happen. I didn't do any of that. I had no … clue.'"

After repeating that he didn't do anything and wanted an attorney, Stone told the officer, "You can't book me on anything," the court documents say.

When the officer replied, "We have plenty," Stone said, "Then I'll change my story. … I'll talk to you if it doesn't get me in trouble. I don't want to be seen on the bookings," the charges state. "I'll be blatantly honest. … I had no clue anything was going to go on."

Stone's initial court appearance is scheduled for March 26.

Lowery's criminal history includes a 2003 conviction of making threats and disorderly conduct. During the court proceedings for that case, an entry in the court docket in 2005 noted that Lowery had enrolled in an anger management program.

In 2005, Lowery was convicted of DUI and possession of a dangerous weapon while under the influence, according to court records. In April of 2017, he was charged in Hurricane Justice Court with disorderly conduct.

In August, Lowery's wife filed for a protective order against him, according to court records. In February, the couple applied for protective orders against each other. Lowery's wife filed for another protective order against her husband on Monday.