Police ‘making progress’ in tree case
Aspen City Council’s $5,000 reward to help find out who lopped off the top of several city-owned trees might not be unprecedented – after all, Aspen was born in the Wild West.But according to Mayor Helen Klanderud, the offer is unheard-of in Aspen’s recent history.Police Chief Loren Ryerson said it was too soon to tell what kind of effect the reward would have on eliciting new information in the investigation.”I think we’re making some substantial progress,” Ryerson said Tuesday. “Right now we have a lot of circumstantial evidence, [but it’s] too premature for charges.”Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss proposed offering the bounty at a meeting Monday night. He called the tree-lopping incident a “cowardly and arrogant act” and said, “I think we should turn over every stone.””It shows the sincere intent of City Council to get the issue resolved, and we share that intent,” Ryerson said. He was, nevertheless, disappointed such a measure might be required.”I’d like to feel that people would do the right thing because it’s their civic duty,” he said.Klanderud, who voted against the reward, said she remained uncomfortable with the decision Tuesday.”I don’t want to see a community where we’re paying people to disclose information,” she said. “Money is appealing, [but] there are better motives than money for disclosing information.”Klanderud was also concerned the reward could encourage shifting of the blame.”I wouldn’t want to see a property owner put the blame on a property manager,” she said. “It creates distrust.””What there is here is a basic disagreement as to how you determine guilty parties and what is the best approach,” she said. “It just set a tone that I don’t like.”When DeVilbiss called for the bounty, he wanted to focus the investigation on the owners or tenants of the building on East Hopkins Avenue behind the trees that were cut down.The city is in negotiations with lawyers for a limited liability corporation, listed as one of the owners of the building, that has offered to pay to replace the trees.”Somebody with some connection to that location topped those trees,” DeVilbiss said when he raised the issue at Monday’s meeting.The potential agreement to replace the trees “has no bearing on the criminal case – whether the city accepts that offer or not,” Ryerson said.Although the offer raises suspicion for some, Ryerson said that “until we know otherwise, we have to really assume that they could be victims, as well. In the United States, people are innocent until proven guilty.”Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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