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Thursday, July 01, 2004

Landowner is charged in Flagstaff tree-cutting

Landowner is charged in Flagstaff tree-cutting
Then, May 1, firefighters noticed a bunch of fallen trees after a windstorm - and discovered the chainsaw cuts.

Flagstaff police Sgt. Gerry Blair said it roused a furor, with more than $5,000 donated to Silent Witness. "Quite frankly, we don't get that much money for people crimes," he added. "The public was incensed."

Detectives soon tracked down an undocumented immigrant who said Nackard paid him $630 to cut into the trees. The woodcutter's identity has not been released by police. But his 12-year-old son, who served as a translator in job negotiations with Nackard, gave this statement to detectives: "He (Nackard) only wanted them halfway cut so the trees would die by next year (and) then he would have them removed. Then he could have his motel put their."

With the immigrant's confession, detectives brought a tape recorder to a meeting with Nackard. He refused to discuss the case, saying, "I'll see you in court." But he also told them, "What do you think of your City Council? Carpetbaggers. I've been here 80 years. . . . This town is in trouble. This thing could be a boom town, but there are some people who don't want it to happen."

Because the trees were a safety hazard, city officials ordered all of them chopped down. Nackard then had the stumps ripped out, leaving a cratered hilltop crisscrossed with dozer tracks.

Dan Frazier, a local Web site operator who has chronicled the Chainsaw Massacre at www.carryabigsticker.com, said Nackard unwittingly turned the May 18 elections against his own slate of candidates.

"In any small town like this, there's going to be pro-business versus the preservationists," Frazier said. "And the election was already interesting. But this just brought it to a new level. It helped seal the fate of the challengers."

City officials say they don't know what will happen with the land now. It remains in violation of city ordinances because of the missing trees, and Donaldson said he's not about to face the political firestorm that would come with any plan for development.

Leavitt, the photographer, said she believes Nackard should be punished for arrogance. "It's like he's still back in the 1940s or 1840s - the Wild West mentality," she said. "He acted like he owned this town. . . . He should have to replace those trees exactly as they were."

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